Carrie Dawson, (left)an English professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax, was watching and reading how Jason Kenney talked about the problem of failed refugee claimants who land on our shores while he was minister of citizenship and immigration. She has a few issues with the language Kenney and other Conservative government ministers used over the last several years on this topic. Dawson has a piece in the current issue of the University of Toronto Quarterly with the title “Refugee Hotels: The Discourse of Hospitality and the Rise of Immigration Detention in Canada.” I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by cutting straight to her conclusion:
In 2012 the then Minister of Citizenship and Immigration stated that “Canada’s immigration and refugee system is the most fair and generous in the world, and will continue to be so under the new, improved system.” He added, “Overheated, ideological rhetoric from special interest groups does a great disservice to Canada’s tradition of openness and generosity”. By way of conclusion, I want to suggest that the opposite is true – that those of us who want to act in solidarity with migrants and to agitate for a more open, inclusive country might begin by encouraging public scrutiny of the government’s ideological rhetoric. On this score, it is worth heeding Catherine Dauvergne, who argues that “we must let go of the idea that Canada’s refugee system is better, fairer, more generous, or more humanitarian than other systems in the world.” She reminds us, for example, that “Canada’s system has fewer avenues of appeal than the United Kingdom, longer time frames for detention than Australia, and the same access to health care as the United States”. But such reminders will fall flat so long as Canadians holdtight to the idea of their benevolence and civility, wearing these myths like a “mantle” that “insulates us from realities in our midst” (Here, Dawson is citing Daniel Coleman in his essay “From Canadian Trance to Transcanada: White Civility to Wry Civility in the CanLit Project.”) If we do cherish justice, liberty, and equality, as all as the other attributes of a civil society, our defence of such a society needs to begin by refusing these myths, so as to ensure that they cannot be used to undermine the very values that they appear to endorse.
The article is behind a paywall but, I assume, most libraries in the country ought to be able to find you a copy. Worth digging it up and giving it a read.