Can anyone say for sure whether Canada’s refugee system works properly?
In fact, can any average citizen sketch out how it works at all?
But every once in a while, a case comes up that makes people think about the refugee issue.
The case of Jacqueline Garcia is one.
In 2006, Jacqueline, her mother and four sisters fled Mexico after her family was terrorized by a man and the local police failed to do anything to help.
The six women faced the same threat, and made their case to immigration officials.
Two have been allowed to stay in Canada. Four have been ordered back to Mexico.
Angelica Garcia, who was sexually abused and stalked by the man, has been allowed to stay in Canada. She was granted permanent resident status. Mirabel, the older sister, was initially deported, but has been allowed to stay on humanitarian grounds.
Catalina Garcia, who was kidnapped by the Mexican man, has been shipped back to Mexico, and has been forced to move to a new state in an attempt to avoid her assailant.
And, though the man has threatened the remaining two Garcia sisters and their mother, they, too, are being deported back to Mexico.
Which begs a question … if four of the women and their children can be shipped home, why are two being allowed to stay?
Or, conversely, depending on your point of view, if the situation is dangerous enough for two of the sisters to remain in Canada, why are the other four women and their children being shipped home?
Something isn’t right.
Consistency is tricky business, especially in a maze-like bureaucracy.
And, when it comes to refugees, the nation isn’t doing a good job of it, according to a recently published independent report on refugee acceptance rates in Canada.
The fate of these people is often determined by a single official. Some are compassionate, and allow virtually all claimants into the country. Others refuse almost everyone. It just depends on who you get.
Such a system is not just.
Jacqueline Garcia is, by all accounts, an ideal prospect for Canada. She’s working, studying and raising two sons that came with her from Mexico.
Classmates of her niece, who studies at FH Collins, have taken up the family’s cause, as have local social justice advocates.
They have done so because they sympathize with the family, and see the inconsistency in the federal bureaucracy’s approach.
The problem is that immigrant and refugee issues are just that, issues for refugees and immigrants. And refugees have little power or influence in Canada.
They cross our border from foreign lands and many of them don’t speak our language or understand our customs. That often creates a barrier that keeps them from mixing with “real” Canadians.
All the while, these people deal with a confusing bureaucracy that few naturalized Canadians have made any effort to understand.
Some are allowed to stay. Others are simply shipped home.
As the Garcias’ case suggests, it comes down to someone’s whim.
Of course, there might be a very sound reason why the refugee official made the ruling.
But, given the inconsistency of approach, it’s hard to fathom what it could be.
It looks like a lottery—if you’re assigned the right official, you stay. Get the wrong one, and you lose.
It shouldn’t be that way.
The Garcias have been ordered to leave Canada by June 1.
Those questioning the decision should contact their local MLA, or Yukon MP Larry Bagnell’s office. (Richard Mostyn)