A Commentary by Doug Draper
Yes, I know many of us don’t hold lawyers in very high regard unless one of them happens to be a beloved member of our family.
On just about any scale, in any survey or poll conducted on the least trusted professions in Canada and the United States over the past 20 or so years, lawyers are right down there, swimming through the bottom sludge with politicians, insurance agents and, yes, journalists.
Yet this journalist – however trusted or untrusted I may be – is going to take a chance and say cheers to more than 80 Canadian lawyers – all specialists in immigration law – who have shown the courage and the moral fortitude to challenge Canada’s Stephen Harper government that it played no role in allowing Conrad Black, a conficted criminal, entry to Canada earlier this year on a residency permit.
These brave lawyers, in an open letter to Harper’s Immigration Minister Jason Kenney on his claim that the Harper government played no role in getting a convicted felon who has no Canadian citizenship residency in the country, said they side with another lawyer, Guidy Mamann in his belief that that claim is not credible. Responding to the government’s attempt to haul Mamann before the Lws Society of Upper Canada for expressing his belief that the Harper government must have played some role in allowing Black, who spend the better part of five years in a Florida prison for fraud and obstruction of justice, the lawyers said to Kenny in their letter; “If you believe that our statement violates the Law Society of Upper Canada rules, please feel free to report us to the Law Society. … We find the attempt by you and your oficials to muzzle freedome of expression to be reprehensible. We will not succumb.”
Wow! Think about that for at least a few seconds. Here are more than 80 Canadian lawyers experienced in immigration law pretty well saying what many of us were saying around our dinner tables when we first heard the news earlier this year that Black, the disgraced media baron who willingly gave up his Canadian citizenship almost a decade ago to accept a British ‘Lordship” title, came in through the Canadian border to settle in Toronto like crap runs through a goose.
Let’s give this a few more seconds of thought, if we even have to.
Here is a person with a criminal record and no citizenship papers here, being allowed entry into Canada during a period in which we have a government in this country that promises to get toughter on criminals – so much so that it is willing to spend billions of our taxdollars on more prison at a time when the rate of crime, including homicides, has actually gone down. Now what do you think the chances are of mere mortals like you and I being allowed across the Canada-U.S. border either way, if we had a criminal record and no citizenship apers?
The answer, most likely, is next to nil. In my years as a journalist, I have talked to numersous people on both sides of the border who were found guilty in their youth of being in possession of a marijuana cigarettes or some other crime along the same scale, and have not been able to cross the Canada/U.S. border for more than 20 or thirty years.
These days a Canadian or American citizen so law abiding that they have never so much as been slapped with a traffic violation, can’t cross the border if they don’t have a passport or equivalent documentation, even though I’ve been told by border security officers that all they have to do is punch in your license plate number and they have the essential goods on you. Yet here is Black, just a day or three out of his prison pajamas, slipping across the border here as if he were Homer Simpson coming over for a shopping trip.
So I say this to Harper and his immigration bum boy Jason Kenney. Give these lawyers and the rest of us some credit for having a little intelligence. You may now have a majority government but someone should remind you that the majority of us did not vote for you, and I’m getting the impression that growing numbers of us can hardly wait for the next federal election.
And by the way, how dare one of your paid bullies – Ana Curic, a spokeswoman in Kenney’s office, accuse these lawyers, as she did in an interview with The Globe and Mail, this August 1, of “engaging in kneejerk outbursts of blind solidarity” with Mamann, who spoke out earlier, and of not considering “the long-term damage to their profession of elevating activism above professionalism.”
If anything, these lawyers, who have no vested interest in Black one way or another, elevated the credibility of their profession by speaking out on a matter that questions whether there are two sets of rules at the border – one for mere mortals and one for lords like Conrad Black.
These lawyers may have complaints filed against them to the Law Society now and Canadians who believe in their right to speak up if they believe our immigration rules have been unfairly compromised should support them.
If you wish to read the text of the lawyers’ open letter to Kenney, followed by a list of their names, click on http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/article4457058.ece .
(Niagara At Large invites you to share your views on this post, remembering that NAL only posts comments from individuals who are also willing to share their first and last names.)