John McKay Defends Catholic Bishops from Conservative Attacks

January-27-11

Letter to the Editor RE: “Immigration Minister lashes out at Bishops’ criticism of anti-human smuggling bill.” Catholic Register, December 2, 2010

It was disappointing to read Minister Kenney’s response to the letter written by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) regarding their concerns with C-49.

The Minister condescendingly suggests that the Bishops should simply leave it to politicians to determine how best to respond to this issue because “pastors... may not have specialized knowledge in certain areas of policy.”

Firstly, it is the democratic right of every citizen and group to communicate their concerns to their elected representatives whenever they see fit to do so. Secondly, the bishops concerns reflect a consensus of over 80 civil society groups and a majority of the House of Commons that the bill punishes legitimate refugees rather than smugglers, violates the Charter of Rights, and creates the risk that Ministers may single out specific refugee groups for detention, simply because they may be politically unpopular. This is an unacceptable dereliction of the principles of fundamental justice, human rights and is precisely what the Charter of Rights is intended to prevent.

The Minister is correct to try to address the serious and unacceptable practice of human smuggling, which often results in intolerable losses of life as unscrupulous criminals take advantage of desperate and frightened people, packing them onto unseaworthy boats.

We all agree that human smuggling must stop. However, what the CCCB, 80+ civil society groups, and the opposition are suggesting is that the Minister has drafted a flawed bill and needs to do more homework to put together a better one that we can all agree on. Moreover, the Minister's and his government’s enthusiasm for punishment appears to have overwhelmed his sense of justice. In the final analysis Canada should be operating a justice system rather than an incarceration system.

As the CCCB very politely and reasonably suggested in their letter, they would be happy to work with the Minister and his officials to put together a bill that satisfies everyone’s concerns. If the Minister was more concerned about those who have died at sea and genuine refugees than about politics he would demonstrate a modicum of reasonableness and respect for groups like the CCCB and put together legislation we can all support.

Hon. John McKay P.C., M.P.
Scarborough-Guildwood

The Catholic Register, January 23rd, 2011