In the Globe & Mail, an adviser for a group which bills itself as the Centre for Immigration Policy Reform has come out in favour of the new security perimeter agreement with the United States. As usual, the Globe is very sparing in its gloss on author James Bissett, who is said only to be “a former Canadian ambassador” and a member of the group in question. “Fear not, Canada,” says Bissett: we are at a “historic moment” and the ceding of sovereignty will turn out just fine. He is surprisingly unable to articulate a single strong reason why this is actually a good agreement, aside from vague suggestions that it is only “natural” to pursue integration and that we must calm American fears about Canada being an easy port of entry for terrorists.
Like most think tanks, the Centre for Immigration Policy Reform claims to be both independent and non-partisan. It’s certainly not non-partisan. It’s impossible to tell whether it’s independent because it doesn’t disclose potential conflicts of interest.
I have to admit, my real interest came from the fact that this group is supposedly from the “immigration reform” lobby. Normally such groups are campaigning for looser immigration laws, more inclusive of refugees in particular. Actually, the Centre for Immigration Policy Reform looks more like a conservative group — even a Conservative/Fraser Institute front group, really, which should surprise no one. It wants to shrink immigration during periods of unemployment, refuse immigrants who might work cheaper than Canadians (including the temporary worker program, which I too despise, though for opposite reasons), make immigrants “integrate” rather than settle in “ethnic districts,” and, most importantly, eliminate immigration and refugee system fraud. I could nod along with a few of those, but this last point is the usual right-wing (and sometimes left-wing) tripe. The refugee system is inclusive because it exists to save lives. The total absence of evidence of large-scale fraud is somehow irrelevant to anti-refugee groups. And here, of course, is why a group like the Centre for Immigration Policy Reform is supporting the North American security perimeter: they fully expect that America’s stricter rules will be jammed into place, superceding Canada’s laws.
Bissett feels that it is “natural” to pursue deeper integration with the United States, and that his opponents are misguided or perhaps even “mischievous.” He suggests that it is much the same as the European Union, ignoring both the deep democratic deficit in that institution as well as the entirely different master-servant relationship that tends to emerge from our alliances with America. He also fails to note the problem which most troubles me: the fact that this is a blatantly anti-democratic agreement which integrationist cheerleaders like Colin Robertson say will be signed before public debate, and which business groups were briefed on while it was supposedly still being negotiated. But who is Bissett, and who is the Centre for Immigration Policy Reform?
As usual, this organization does not identify its principal sources of funding. This makes it very difficult to understand potential conflicts of interest in the positions they advocate. Their webpage indicates they were founded in Ottawa in 2009, and despite being two years old, still shows hallmarks of being an up-and-coming organization that has yet to find its mark. There are numerous errors on the webpage, not the least of which is that advisor Derek Burney’s biography appears in place of advisor Tom Harris’s.
The Board of Directors is made up mostly of right-wingers with connections to the Fraser Institute or the Conservative Party (or both). Martin Collacott is a former diplomat who now is a senior fellow at the Fraser Institute, for instance. Donald A. George is a retired professor of engineering who seems to be unaffiliated, but chairwoman Margaret Kopala is a former Progressive Conservative candidate who has written for the Conservative C2C journal, while the other director, journalist Peter G. White, is a former Hollinger executive who once served as Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.
The advisers are a similar bunch. One of them, Gordon Gibson, is another Fraser Institute senior fellow, while immigration lawyer Julie Taub takes pains to point out her participation in a Fraser Institute immigration conference in 2008. Herbert Grubel was an MP for the old Reform Party, while Salim Mansur ran as a Canadian Alliance MP in 2000. Barbara Kay and Gilles Paquet are unaffiliated, although Kay is a right-leaning journalist at the right-tilting National Post. John Manion donates to the Conservative Party. He was a senior civil servant during the Trudeau administration, at which time he supposedly opposed the fundamental freedom to enter or leave Canada (the wording in his bio is vague, but this is the only reasonable interpretation of it). After that he moved over to become a senior personnel adviser to, once again, the Mulroney government.
Once again, Derek Burney shows up, too. Burney is yet another old Mulroney adviser (the Chief of Staff), was posted as ambassador to the U.S. during the free trade era, and was brought onboard by Stephen Harper as an adviser, too. He has no apparent interest in immigration, being mostly a trade guy, which of course raises serious questions about whether this ostensibly immigration-focused group is really just a front for anti-Canadian deep integrationists.
The final advisor is David Harris, and although his bio is missing from the website, I would be happy to fill it in, because I took on his case over at Terrible Depths years ago, when it was still up and running. Harris used to work at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), where he was supposedly a strategic planning chief (the Canadian ambassador to the U.S. has stated he worked there less than a year, and many years ago). After 9/11, like so many former spooks, academics, and simple charlatans, he went private as a terrorism “expert” for the media and other public groups. In this capacity, among other things, he defended security certificates, the Chretien-era monstrosity under which the government illegally claimed the power to arrest any non-citizen and hold them without charge. Before he joined up with the current immigration group, he was working for the similarly minded Canadian Coalition for Democracies, which now seems to be defunct. So was Mansur, for that matter, which seems like an odd coincidence.
In short, it’s not terribly surprising that a “think tank” made up of former Conservative politicians and wild-eyed anti-terrorism ranters would be staking out a position in support of the Conservative government on the subject of eliminating Canada’s sovereign immigration law and allowing the Americans to dictate terms in its place.Tweet