November 16, 2015
To the Honorable Justin Trudeau, Members of Parliament, and Provincial Premiers… Will We Learn Nothing From Paris?
I am a proud Canadian, and proud of our heritage of being a true global leader in Humanitarian efforts. Given the events of recent years and more importantly the recent week, however, I believe prudence requires a pause in our assistance package for Syrian refugees, and indeed all refugees and asylum seekers. I say this not in a tone of political partisanship, but one of Citizenship. Any Parliament, be it Liberal, Conservative, or NDP has as its first mandate the protection of our country and its citizens. This must take precedence over all other considerations and activities.
As a Retired Firefighter/Fire Officer of the City of Calgary, I have an experience I believe is timely and valuable. In my final assignment at the end of my career, I asked for and received a transfer to work on the Airport Crash Rescue Unit at the Calgary International Airport. A requirement for all staff working at the Airport is to undergo a police background check. In between the time the background check is initiated, and the time it is competed, an employee must be accompanied by another employee who has the appropriate screening and credentials. I can’t remember precisely how long it took for the RCMP to conduct my check, but it was several months. Bear in mind that this is for a person who was born in Calgary; completed primary, secondary and post‐secondary education in Calgary/Lethbridge; had passed a security clearance to gain employment as a Calgary Firefighter, and had worked in this civic institution for 18 years at the time. I had also been vetted by the Provincial Government’s Lieutenant Governor Norman (Normie) Kwong to sit as a long‐term member of the Alberta Labour Relations Board. In short, it would not be difficult to find information on me. I was also required to be finger printed as part of the process.
When the day arrived and I was notified that I had passed the security clearance, I was escorted to the terminal building by a colleague to pick up my coveted airport pass. While in the waiting room, I met and visited with what seemed to be a very nice man of Arab descent, who if memory served was from Jordan. During our discussion, he indicated that his pass had only taken two weeks to get, as opposed to the months mine had taken. He left after receiving his pass, and so when my turn came I asked the RCMP Sargent why on earth it would take so long for me to acquire a clearance when this person who indicated he was a recent arrival to Canada received his in two weeks or less. The answer I received haunts me to this day.
The answer: “We can’t really do that much of a search on these people. They often arrive without even a passport or Birth Certificate, and unless they appear on an INTERPOL watch list, we generally let them pass. Often the police departments from these fractured countries are unable or unwilling to provide information or detailed data, and we simply have to go with what we can learn. We also make sure they have no criminal record while in Canada, which for many of these folks is a very short period of time”…….or words to that effect.
In the couple of years I spent at the airport, I never stopped thinking about that. These people were everywhere: loading aircraft luggage, cleaning the airport with access to virtually all areas right up to the jet ways, acting as security guards and everything in between. It was then and there that I realized that the issue of security was truly an illusion in our country. I do not say these things lightly. I represented Calgary and its 1500 members as the President of the Calgary Firefighter’s Association in New York in 2002 at the 911 Memorial which was attended by 77,000 firefighters from all over the world. The hole at ground zero was still a testament a year later as to the impact of what can happen when a country lets its guard down.
So my questions to the Current Government and to the two opposition parties, and to our provincial leaders, in light of the recent events in France are:
1. “Who are the refugees”? How can you possibly screen 25,000 people adequately in such a short period of time to ensure that none of these people pose a threat to me and my country?
2. What specific process(es) is/are engaged to determine the identity of who these people are?
3. What agency is tasked with performing the background checks, and has the capacity to conduct appropriate checks on what amounts mathematically to about 800 people per day if they are all to arrive by Christmas. I note that in the U.S.A., the head of the Department of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson admitted that “we don’t know a whole lot about these people” and that we have “no real protocol for screening refugees” – My guess and fear is if they can’t do it between the DHS, FBI, and CIA, there is no reasonable hope that Canada can possibly have any credible system. I believe Canadian citizens are entitled to know this. I would commend to you the words of Governor Greg Abbot of Texas who today said: “Given the tragic attacks in Paris and the threats we have already seen, Texas cannot participate in any program that will result in Syrian refugees — any one of whom could be connected to terrorism — being resettled in Texas.” That seems like a very reasoned approach at the moment.
4. Bill C‐45 (2003), which became an amendment to the Criminal Code of Canada after the Westray Mine accident, allowed the courts to find officers of corporations criminally negligent if their actions either willfully or by gross negligence contribute to the preventable death of an employee. Does this legislation reach to the political elite if, in the future, an innocent citizen is harmed or killed by a refugee because the sitting government failed to properly screen them? If not, we need to amend it. As I read the Act, Clause 1(1) extends the reach of Bill C‐45 to “all organizations”…..which I assume includes political parties. Would you concur with this view?
5. What is the projected, long‐term cost per refugee and what current, existing benefits will suffer because of this for existing citizens?
6. What is the demographic make‐up of the refugees being allowed into the country? What percentage are women, children, married men accompanying a family, and single men?
7. Will refugees be required to undergo a polygraph test, be finger printed, and be drug tested as is required of several types of employment for Canadian Citizens such as the Calgary Fire Department?
8. Will Refugees be screened for infectious diseases including TB, HIV, hepatitis, leishmaniosis, meningitis, and the host of other physiological problems which have been identified with these disadvantaged people?
9. Why are neighboring, wealthy countries of Syria with similar cultures such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait not accepting ANY refugees?
10. There are reportedly 19 million refugees globally from places as diverse as Libya to Myanmar. Are we to take them all? In the case of Syria, is it not better to spend our money pushing for a UN peacekeeping force to be deployed and contributing our resources in that fashion so that these people can have the opportunity to stay put and rebuild their own country? How we managed the war in Cyprus comes to mind. Is that not the road we should be following instead of pretending that we are blind to what the USA and Russia are doing there?
11. Terror attacks appear to be occurring in random places with high civilian populations with little if any police or military presence. I have never been that concerned with gun restrictions, however like our brothers and sisters in France; we Canadians live a country with severe gun restrictions. Can you comment on how Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms squares with my inability to carry or possess (without significant restrictions) a weapon for self‐defence? Put another way, how can I possibly have the right to Security of Person where I don’t have a reasonable ability of self defense? Do you intend on travelling anywhere (inside or outside of the country) without armed guards? While you will no doubt have me look to the south (USA) for reasons not to re‐consider this, I would point you east, to Switzerland, which is one of the most heavily armed, yet peaceful nations on earth. In all of this, I am not suggesting that as a nation we turn a blind eye to those in need. We do have an enviable reputation in the world that each of us is proud of. Having said that, we unfortunately live in an ever‐changing world. For all of the forgoing reasons, I would ask that the sitting government halt the refugee program until it can be demonstrated to all Canadians that every single refugee being allowed access to our country, and being offered benefits that most of us have worked a lifetime to fund, have been thoroughly vetted. I would also argue that it is time to re‐open the debate on gun legislation from a constitutional perspective. We don’t have a “second amendment” as our U.S. brothers, but without the right to meaningful self‐protection, the Canadian Charter guarantee of “Security of Person” is starting to ring very hollow.
In closing, are we going to learn anything from Paris? While social media is replete with people stating “we are Paris”, my suggestion is we make immediate alterations to the issues noted above, before that Facebook slogan changes from an echo of support to a prophesy.
D. S. (Scott) Wilcox Cold lake, Ab.