By Dr Lubomyr Luciuk
Walter Kish is currently visiting Ukraine. Below you will find a “guest” piece authored by Dr Lubomyr Luciuk, currently a Professor of political geography at the Royal Military College of Canada. Prof Luciuk is also a former member of the IRB (Immigration and Refugee Board) 1996-1998.
Be a liar. That is the first lesson most claimants who come before the Immigration and Refugee Board learn. How? Well, first of all, bring no identity documents, or use fake ones. Be vague about who you are, where you came from, how you got here, and, most especially, about why you left. Except, of course, for repeatedly insisting that you face nothing less than torture or even martyrdom if you return. Repeat this mantra. Practice looking downcast. Cry. Unless you are an utter imbecile you stand an excellent chance of getting Convention refugee status in Canada.
Getting here probably wasn’t very hard. Claim otherwise. Remember, you are a victim. Even so, by the date of your hearing, be composed. By then you will have savoured several months, perhaps years, of the privileges Canadians enjoy, without attendant responsibilities. This boon comes courtesy of a Supreme Court that ruled, in 1985, that you and yours should enjoy the full protection of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That turned Canada into a haven for people just like you. And assorted terrorists, drug peddlers and war criminals.
Don’t worry about your hearing. You will leave amazed at how many contortions some Canadians will go through to ensure you stay. Still, there are things you should do. First, ask for a delay, several times. Get a note from a compatriot to let the Board know you have been gravely ill. Why delay? Because you accumulate the maximum amount of welfare. That helps pay off the smugglers who got you here. Paying your debts can be stressful, especially when you are a stranger in a strange land. But look on the positive side. By being here you are already better off than you could ever have been where you came from. You’re making money. And if you have medical problems we’ll fix you up. No charge. Canadians can wait.
Hiring legal counsel is no problem. True, a lot of crooks masquerade as immigration consultants, but don’t worry. You can afford a mouthpiece, for Canada’s taxpayers guarantee you Legal Aid. And when the big day comes at the IRB accept only a 2-Member panel. You stand a much better chance of admission, for if one goes negative and the other positive, you win. You always get the benefit of the doubt. Hey, you have more rights than a Canadian.
Granted, you may be nervous. You’ve been telling fibs all along. What if someone catches you out? Don’t worry. The Board’s Members are only human. They are not really required to explain a positive determination. But they must justify a negative one, which can be appealed to the Federal Court. So most Members go positive, most of the time. It is nicer that way. True, some Members specialize in reserving decisions. Don’t worry if that happens. Many do because then their backlog grows and they get time off to catch up. Wanting out of the hearing rooms is perfectly understandable. Imagine how tedious listening to the same story, day after day after day, is. Most Members have heard your fable, or some minor variant of it, many times before. Their main job is to pretend that they haven’t and make it look as if they did not prejudge your claim. Of course they have. With most Members you’re in, facts and your false witness notwithstanding.
New Board Members do wonder why so many claimants’ stories sound so much alike. There’s a simple answer. You know it and they’ll learn. Remember the smugglers who brought you to Canada? They weren’t exactly Hollywood scriptwriters, were they? They coached you in the tale you should recite, just like thousands before you. So stick to the script! And if you do mess up immediately claim to be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The Members will feel your pain.
If you happen to belong to any of the several racial, ethnic or religious minorities the Board mollycoddles you’re really lucky. For example, if you’re a Tamil, male, and “young” (no exact definition exists, for being precise is considered discriminatory) you will likely appear before a panel that agrees you fit the “profile” of a person at risk in Sri Lanka. Basically that means everyone. So welcome to Canada, after only the most perfunctory of examinations. Reportedly we now have quite a sub-population of young, male, Tamil Tiger terrorists in Canada, courtesy of the IRB.
At the Board there are those who don’t want Canadians to hear any of this. They enjoy their perks and wallow in self-inflated notions of their importance. They dismiss those who, like me, accepted an appointment to the IRB out of a desire to help refugees but ended up utterly disillusioned by the determination process. To silence critics they defame us. We’re anti-refugee, anti-immigrant, xenophobic. Rubbish. But I do admit that I had a problem at the Board. I rarely encountered a real refugee there. When I began to wonder why, I was maliciously labeled “Dr No,” because I was handing down negative decisions on over 90% of the claims before me. Those who stereotyped me didn’t care that my parents were political refugees who fled Nazi and communist tyranny. Like true refugees from anywhere, my folks had a compulsive need to return home. Oddly, few claimants at the IRB said they would rather be back home. They just talked about how bad it was somewhere else and how happy they were to be here. As I listened to their various yarns, I came to realize that the overwhelming majority organized their own shipment to Canada for economic reasons. Certainly, some are good people who have had hard lives or faced discrimination, a few even worse. But most did not have a well-founded fear of persecution. So I had no choice but to become “Dr No.” Now I’m glad I was. I also became “Dr Know.” I know, unlike our blinkered Minister of Immigration, Elinor Caplan, and her minions, that if the IRB continues to operate as it has then just about anyone and everyone who wants to get into Canada will. Then our country will disappear, as surely as New York’s World Trade Center vanished in a holocaust perpetrated by the terrorists who exploited our lax immigration laws to worm their way amongst us. Many remain, undetected, to our peril.