column was published in the
Aug. 4, 1999)
troubling questions about boat people
By Leo Knight
123 citizens of the People's Republic of China were caught
bobbing around in the waters of Nootka Sound, a great debate has
been stirred on the subject of what we as a country should do
matter which side of the debate one is on, the whole of the
situation is very troubling.
the first place, we need to understand that Canadian authorities
did not intercept the ramshackle fishing boat. Two of the
"boat people" tried to get ashore on a makeshift raft
and were scooped up by a pair of off-duty American cops on a
fishing vacation. Once they called 9-1-1 our Coast Guard kicked
is an integral part of the problem. Our military, Coast Guard
and the RCMP have all been hurt badly by the federal government
which can't seem to come to grips with what should be its main
priority -- to protect the citizenry. Consequently we simply
cannot look after our coastline.
inability to keep an appropriate watch on our shores is
precisely why those people were in Nootka Sound in the first
said that, there are a great many questions arising from the
information coming from the illegal migrants. Not the least of
which has to do with the stories being told.
to the information being released by Immigration Canada and the
RCMP, all the migrants paid between $30,000 and $40,000 US to be
smuggled into Canada.
claim to have spent 39 days on the rustbucket former fishing
boat crossing the Pacific Ocean. So the story goes, they were
ill-fed, had no kitchen facilities, no washroom or shower
facilities yet they were all in remarkably good physical
condition when examined by Canadian doctors. How is that
Friday The Vancouver Sun ran a story suggesting the
migrants might have had help along the way.
story quoted Paul Dupre, president of Western Maritime
Surveyors, who had inspected the boat on behalf of immigration
really question that the boat actually steamed 39 days to arrive
here unassisted. In my experience, that doesn't seem practical
-- if not impossible," said the maritime expert.
confirmed reports of horrible conditions on the boat,
overflowing slop buckets, used toilet paper strewn all over the
place and various other equally squalid examples. But he said
the boat did not have the capacity for sufficient water and fuel
for the lengthy journey.
immigration and police authorities are saying there is no
evidence of any assistance such as a "mother ship."
Unofficially, the potential for a highly organized international
smuggling set-up is a major part of the investigation.
is clear is the involvement of Asian organized crime groups.
Equally, there is also reason to believe Canada was not to be
their final destination, but rather it was simple the conduit to
the soft underbelly of the United States -- the porous
unprotected border between our two countries.
the traffic in human cargo is rapidly becoming a significant
aspect of the Asian gangs.
weakness of Canadian laws and government policy has played right
into their hands, all the while costing the taxpayer a huge
amount of money.
Canada and the U.S. are signatories to the same UN agreements on
refugees. But it is very interesting to look at the differences
in the way the two countries deal with asylum seekers.
migrants are currently being housed at CFB Esquimalt under guard
while their refugee claims are being processed.
are a battery of lawyers assigned to represent the boat people
on our dime. Had the boat landed on U.S. soil, say Catalina
Island for example, this would not happen.
spoke with a representative of the U.S. Immigration and
Naturalization Service and posed the question of how they might
handle such a situation.
In the first place, I was told, while the asylum claimants have the right to legal counsel, the American taxpayer does not fund the lawyers.
"There is no cost to the government," said the officer. "They are either pro bono or paid for by NGOs (Non Government Organizations)," he said.
other significant difference is the way the claim is dealt with.
Here, once the incipient claimant raises his hand and mumbles
the word "refugee" all manner of publicly-funded
support kicks in, including legal aid and welfare while the
claim is processed.
so in the U.S.
conduct what are called "credible fear" interviews.
Essentially, these interviews determine whether there is a
reasonable fear of persecution in the homeland of the claimant.
If it is determined this does not exist, the person is
"repatriated" as soon as possible.
other words, there is no ability for an economic refugee to gain
status in the U.S. They must go through the normal application
immigration officials always say it's very difficult dealing
with the Chinese government. They will not issue travel
documents for refugee claimants who do not possess proof of
identity. Which means most because, as with the boat migrants
last week, they divest themselves of all identification.
happens is that Canada winds up negotiating with the Chinese
government to please take back their citizens and we wind up
signing an economic development deal as a bribe.
so in the U.S. They invite representatives of the Chinese
government to interview the claimants personally.
done, the respective travel documents are issued promptly. I
asked if they have ever had to enter into an economic
arrangement with China as we have. Not surprisingly, he just
scoffed at the prospect. The reality is that most of the refugee
claimants from China never bother showing up for their board
hearings once they're here.
go to the U.S. and disappear among the masses in New York or
L.A. The same will happen with this latest group if they are
released from custody. Guaranteed.
way this breaks down is simple. The U.S. winds up with more
illegal immigrants. The Asian gangsters make a ton of money
trafficking in human misery. The lawyers continue to build their
immigration industry, gumming up our already fuzzy laws. And,
you and I pay for the privilege.