Time heals all wounds. Ex ministers attack Trudeau

TORONTO – The headline would be polite reference to circumstances and individuals cited in a Toronto Star article, yesterday, Former Liberal ministers urge Trudeau to drop plans to house migrants in federal prisons. It is on an issue that may have “unintended consequences” for the Party in power and for the individuals cited. 

First question, how did we get to this stage? We would have to go back to 1993 to get a full appreciation of the discussion highlighted by Immigration Reporter, Nicholas Keung.

Both Ministers were part of a caucus, recently elected to government under the leadership of Jean Chretien. Many MPs, like Rock, were new to Parliament. Those who were not looked for an opportunity to “right some wrongs” with approaches to government that would generate efficiencies and provide for a safer public environment. A sizeable number of those MPs were from the GTA with its ever-growing immigrant community.

Another GTA MP, Tom Wappel, a second term Parliamentarian, proposed a plan to deal with perceived problems allegedly generated by new immigrants “unfamiliar with or indifferent to” the concept of the rule of law and the obedience thereto in principle and in fact. The plan called for accommodating them in underutilized institutional spaces for acclimatization.

The press got hold of a copy. Poor Tom was excoriated and nearly ostracized as “the finger-pointers” accused him of everything from promoting concentration camps to jailing women and children without the benefit of a trial and other such nonsense. That was the end of a plan that virtually no one read.

It appears that “the Plan” came into effect at some point, despite the caucus opposition and “outrage”. By the time I entered Cabinet, hardly anyone remembered its contents. Until yesterday, I had forgotten everything about that sorry occurrence. Axworthy and Rock must have also.

Lloyd Axworthy is chair of the World Refugee and Migration Council and a former minister of Foreign Affairs. Allan Rock is a member of the World Refugee and Migration Council and former Minister of Justice, among other portfolios. They issued a joint statement, as cited by Keung who obtained a copy, calling on the “Trudeau government to cancel plans to start using federal prisons to hold immigration detainees […and …] to the practice of detaining migrants in jails”. (emphasis added).

I thought I was reliving the caucus gang-up of thirty years ago. Keung quotes the two ex-ministers: “we cannot allow unjustified and unsubstantiated claims about public security to override our respect for human rights (they assume public security and human rights are mutually exclusive) … Asylum seekers and migrants should be welcomed to Canada with dignity and respect, not dehumanized and detained.”

Who started the practice the “detention”? It sounds an awful lot like the current government either accepted the practise or is tempted to make it more exacting. I wonder what Tom Wappel is thinking.

As at going to print, Minister Miller’s office had not responded to telephone request for clarification on Nicholas Keung’s article.