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NEWS: Harper’s refugee policy puts children in jail

Council of Canadians Board member Leticia Adair shared this column with us this morning.

Toronto Star columnist Heather Mallick writes, “It has come to this: Canada puts small children in jail.” She highlights that, “289 children of asylum-seekers are being held in Canadian detention centres while their parents’ immigration status is being decided.”

The situation is this – “Children’s outdoor slides (are) surrounded by actual razor-wire fences, guards, surveillance cameras and rooms with barred windows. …Of the detained children, 75 are under 5 years old, 65 are aged 6 to 9, 55 are 10 to 12 and 92 are between 13 and 17, the CBC reported. …Canada keeps the fathers in a separate section of the building. Children and their mothers can visit them only at set times. …The bewildered and frightened children can’t sleep, aren’t in school, are bullied, bereft and psychologically scarred.”

“Britain, Belgium and Japan are among the nations that have followed the Convention on the Rights of the Child and stopped locking up children as their parents’ cases wind through the courts.” But not Canada under the Harper Conservatives.

Mallick adds, “I am equally puzzled by Kenney’s remarks on Bill C-31, the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act, which came into effect this week. It means that immigrants who show up at the border in large groups can be held for a year. But what does Canada do about their children?” According to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney the choice is to either put them in the care of children welfare agencies or keep them with them in these detention centres.

She concludes, “Seeking asylum is not a crime. It may be the only means of survival. So why punish little children? If we say we’re doing it for the refugee claimants’ own good, remember that the Canadian government once took children away from their innocent aboriginal parents and put them in residential schools. That worked well. We are demonizing the word ‘refugee’ in the same way that we have been taught to demonize ‘taxes’ or ‘immigrant’. We are imposing horrors upon children. Why? Because the Conservatives have a majority and there’s no one to stop them.”

Mallick’s Toronto Star column can be read at http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/1302604–canada-puts-asylum-toddlers-behind-razor-wire. A CBC news report on this situation can be read at http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2012/12/13/detention-children-canada.html.