StarMetro Columnist VICKY MOCHAMA wrote in a recent report that "[i]n most cases, journalists are careful about language." However, Mochama argues that in the case of immigration and refugee policy, many are not. It is strange to say that lawyers and even former members of relevant federal government Boards, might not just lack caution, but play into the hands of racist sentiments with arguments based on what many would say is wild speculation. As evidence of the danger of wild speculation on refugee policy, a recent article from the right wing National Post is presented, followed by Mochama's caution about the danger of speculation and bias.
In the following analysis, we will examine President Trump's immigration and refugee policy that has resulted in tearing children from their parents and the reaction in Canada, along with comparable historical policies.
"Border refugee crisis all about importing new voting blocs
By Julie Taub and David B. Harris
As the National Post recently reported, 20,000 people have illegally penetrated Canada’s border since early 2017, the vast majority into Quebec, where 400 are expected each day over the course of the warm-weather months. “For the first time, there are more people illegally seeking asylum in Canada than making legal refugee claims,” said the Post, and the trend will continue. This helped double over-all refugee-claimant numbers from 18,644 a little over a year ago to 48,974 last month.
Ottawa claims to be exerting itself to staunch the costly flow. But instead of being deported, illegal entrants generally seem to be welcomed by Ottawa — witness prime ministerial tweets and government intimations about bringing in even more refugee claimants.
To understand why this and other such distortions are allowed to happen is to comprehend the shambles of Canada’s immigration system and the possible corruption underlying that system.
Start with the case of the illegal migrants entering from the U.S., and how they cost taxpayers big. Each asylum seeker costs Canadians between $15,000 to $20,000. Although they are not legally considered genuine refugees until so designated after a formal hearing process, seekers get a social assistance package similar to Canadian citizens’ own entitlements. In various forms, benefits include medical care, children’s dental and eye care, prescription-drug care, and housing — and legal aid support. The 20,000 recent illegal-crossers will cost Canadians between $300-400 million. Add to that, tax-funded immigration reviews and appeals, and possibly years of social welfare support during the process.
As a result of this influx, some legal entrants’ hearings have been cancelled to make way for illegal arrivals’ claims. At the same time, Ottawa fast-tracks work permits and health care for many thousands of refugee claimants, including the 20,000 illegal entrants. This, in effect, rewards illegal migration.
What explains the irrational decision-making, which, according to Canada Border Services Agency Union leader Jean-Pierre Fortin, has left Canada with a “Swiss cheese” border? Why wouldn’t a debt- and unemployment-burdened government block the flow from the U.S. by creating temporary Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) offices at known illegal border en- try points? Or, as Fortin has urged, set up a 300-member team to plug border gaps? The CBSA is critically underfunded, and understatedted with out dated technology, and cannot even per- form its regular duties, let alone this unprecedented crisis breach of our borders.
Ottawa’s “solution”? Send RCMP oofficers without specificc immigration jurisdiction to the border, to become, in eeffect, a “glorified taxi service” — as one official privately put it — to inland CBSA ooffices, to make asylum claims. Taxpayers’ money appears unlimited for illegal migration, but sparse for CBSA.
Why is Canada pursuing this kind of policy? Sad to say, the evidence speaks for itself. Unless we posit unprecedented levels of government chaos, we are forced to a harsh conclusion.
Aided and abetted by similarly inclined municipal and provincial politicians, official Ottawa’s averting of its gaze from border breaching, is only one facet of a much larger political impulse. The impulse? To import, through legal and perhaps illegal immigration and refugee in- takes, large numbers of future, grateful prospective voting blocs, contrary to Canadians’ national interest.
Immigration lawyer Julie Taub is a former member of the Immigration and Refugee Board. David B. Harris is a lawyer and director of the intelligence program, INSIGNIS Strategic Research Inc."
In most cases, journalists are careful about language.
When a case appears to be headed toward a guilty verdict, we still used “alleged.” It is both irresponsible and premature to convict someone before a court has had the chance to decide the case.
However, when it comes to migration, we’ve been more than happy to play judge and jury.
The Canadian media has used the phrase “illegal” to describe people walking across the Canadian border. The rationale being that it is illegal under our Customs Act to cross the border without declaring at an official port of entry.
But when it comes to claiming asylum — that is, asking for protection from persecution elsewhere — the law is clear: migrants in Canada have a right to have their refugee claims heard, even if they walk across the border.
It’s a tricky distinction but an incredibly meaningful one.
The words we use to describe how people move around are important. Done poorly, the wrong words can disastrously exacerbate existing anti-migrant sentiments.
There is research that shows the language of migration, especially in the media, impacts how political and policy decisions are made.
A 2013 Canadian study found that even in welcoming places like Canada, negative portrayals of migrants can create tensions and foment the feeling that there are “enemies at the gates.” Speaking to Wired UK, one of the researchers said, “Thus, the media take advantage of unease to create a state of crisis that will attract attention and help sell media products.”
As the report notes, these types of negative portrayals have been intense in Canada, notably around the MV Sun Sea incident, in which a boat of Tamil refugees approaching the British Columbia coast was met with hostility.
A focus on illegality can end up overtaking more nuanced coverage of migrant issues. A 2015 study by the Migrant Observatory at Oxford University found that in 58,000 newspaper articles in the U.K., the most common word for migrants was “illegal.”
Coverage thus becomes rife with a hostility to migration and migrants.
The case for caution abounds. The Australian media’s “African gang crime” narrative permits both racist and restrictive policing. A similar narrative in Italy has led to attacks on Black Italians and African migrants alike.
The dangers are also political. Anti-migration sentiments (and indeed, racist views) were predictors in the willingness of people to vote for Brexit in the U.K. and to vote for Donald Trump in the United States.
Media elsewhere have recognized the risks inherent in conflating immigration with illegality. In 2013, the Los Angeles Times and the Associated Press ended their use of the phrase “illegal immigrant.” In their note, the Times said, “That means stories will no longer refer to individuals as ‘illegal immigrants’ or ‘undocumented immigrants,’ but instead will describe a person’s circumstances.”
Even then the language is imprecise. Is calling someone an “irregular border crosser” any less dehumanizing and does it clarify any more? I doubt it. In truth, there is no one perfect word to describe how a person becomes a refugee and gets to Canada. But that’s not a reason to use the wrong words.
At its best, journalism illuminates and creates change. The language that we use to do that will tell us exactly what kind of change we’re going to get.