Recently, bill C-49 was introduced into parliament and has fueled a public quarreling between the Catholic Bishops of Canada and the Immigration minister Jason Kenny, a devout Catholic. The bill is designed to prevent human smuggling into Canada by creating tougher Canadian and international laws.
The Canadian Bishops wrote a letter to the immigration minister in response. They found that the bill may wrongly singled out needy refugees which strips away their dignity. Jason Kenny sharply refuted these claims by stating the bishops’ letter reflects a “long tradition of ideological bureaucrats who work for the bishops’ conference producing political letters signed by pastors who may not have specialized knowledge in certain areas of policy.”
Who is right? From the perspective of many advocacy groups and churches, the government is really doing nothing to directly hold accountable the people who are responsible for illegally trafficking refugees into Canada. Instead the bill merely targets refugees. Jason Kenny is arguing that the government has a moral responsibility to protect the safety of these refugees by preventing them from coming over in unsafe conditions, such as sending people over seas in leaky rusty boats. This argument is legitimate, but only to a point. The government in this bill does not propose an alternative on how to help refugees safely come here and nor do they hold other countries accountable concerning human rights.
Clearly, there is no easy solution to this problem. Anyone who has listened to the numerous refugee stories will tell you about their heroic tales that often involves having a connection with someone who gets them into the country illegally. The inhumane extremes these people suffer was something that they were willing to risk in order to reach safety and freedom. Let’s face it, in reality refugees are more likely to suffer a more dangerous fate by the hands of their corrupt leaders, that is why they are willing to leave their homes on dangerous vessels.
Simply as it is, the bill will make it impossible for those seeking liberation to come to Canada. For the bishops of Canada what is at stake is the dignity of innocent people who need our help. The question is, from both a Catholic and a political perspective, how do we help these people in need; remembering our ancestors were once sojourners in a foreign land who sought liberation and security, and received aid from their bordering neighbors (Lev 25.25-55). How do we share this wealth that God has graciously shared with us?
Pax et Bonum,
Billy Isenor, OFM
To get more information on the bishops letter to the immigration minister check out:
And for Immigration minister’s Kenny’s response check out: