News/Canada: Canada may jail migrants for their own good: Minister

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Subject: News/Canada: Canada may jail migrants for their own good: Minister
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Wed Sep 22 1999 - 16:17:12 EDT


Melanie's comments: this is a very scary idea & I hope that some people in
Canada will try to protect the human rights of these irregular
migrants/victims of trafficking!

mel...

____________

Canada may jail migrants for their own good: Minister
By Chad Skelton and Jim Beatty
The Ottawa Citizen, September 10, 1999

VANCOUVER -- The federal government may change the Immigration Act to allow
authorities to detain illegal migrants in order to protect them against
human smugglers, Immigration Minister Elinor Caplan said yesterday as
another suspected migrant ship moved closer to B.C.'s coast.

"We have already announced proposals to increase detention if a person is
undocumented and uncooperative," Ms. Caplan said during a Canadian Club
luncheon.

"Recent experience may also lead us to consider detention as a human
security issue ... in cases where the persons may themselves be at risk
from the smugglers."

Up to 30 Chinese refugee claimants from the first boatload of 123 migrants
who were released pending their hearing have disappeared in recent weeks,
according to volunteers who worked with them. They say the migrants are
being intimidated by local gangs affiliated with the smugglers.

At the moment, Immigration Canada can only detain someone if they are
unsure of the person's identity, believe the migrant poses a risk to public
safety or is unlikely to reappear for an immigration hearing.

Rudolf Kischer, who represents some of the migrants from the first ship,
said there isn't solid evidence that the boat people have, in fact, been
threatened by smugglers.

He suspects Ms. Caplan's concerns are "a reaction to the public outcry that
these people should be kept in detention."

Meanwhile, navy officials continued to be tight-lipped yesterday about the
latest ship -- the fifth this summer-- heading to B.C.'s shores.

The ship, which fits the profile of the other four ships, was first spotted
in international waters Tuesday afternoon. The navy said it is continuing
to to track it, but will not reveal its location, or when it might land,
saying that could make it more difficult to intercept.

Ms. Caplan spoke at length about Canada's reputation as a compassionate
country, but said "many Canadians ... are frustrated at the thought that
some people would take advantage of our generosity, by choosing an illegal
and dangerous route to Canada. ... I want you to know that I share their
frustration."

However, when pressed, Ms. Caplan would not say what policy changes she
plans to make -- other than noting she supports the government policy paper
released earlier this year.

One thing Ms. Caplan said she will not consider is using the Constitution's
notwithstanding clause to override a Supreme Court decision that guarantees
refugee claimants the right to have their claims heard.

"I am a defender of the right of all who enter Canada to the protection of
our Charter," she said.

Ms. Caplan's visit to B.C. coincided with allegations from legal aid
lawyers in Victoria that immigration officials and the RCMP have physically
and psychologically abused the Chinese migrants while also denying them
their legal rights.

Among the allegations, the lawyers complained that police are abusing the
migrants by forcing some of them -- those who have been identified as
organizers or security risks -- to wear red coveralls.

The lawyers say the colour red is particularly distressing for the Chinese
migrants because it is the colour worn by death-row inmates from their
native Fujian province.

Some claimed their clients are scared by police dogs and have been
subjected to table-thumping and finger pointing by RCMP officers
investigating the human smuggling operation, and said one was hit with a
rolled-up magazine by a police officer.

Lawyer Kevin Doyle said the authorities are in breach of the Immigration
Act and the Charter by refusing to allow the migrants access to legal
counsel during their two official immigration interviews.

None of the lawyers actually claimed to have witnessed any of the alleged
complaints of physical abuse.

All of the allegations were immediately denied by RCMP Const. Tracey Rook,
who said the migrants are being treated well. "Our members are going out of
their way" to treat the migrants with dignity and respect, she said, adding
that officers have personally purchased footballs, frisbee and magazines
for them.

Immigration Canada officials say the migrants have no right to see lawyers
prior to their first interview with immigration officers.

Asked about the allegations of misconduct, Ms. Caplan said she was taking
the reports "very seriously" and has asked officials in her office to
investigate.

****

Melanie Orhant
morhant@igc.org
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