July 27, 2014 – It’s always been a symbolic reflection of Canadian refugee and immigration policy that the name of the country’s largest newcomer processing centre is the Greater Toronto Enforcement Centre (GTEC). There is no official welcoming centre for those fleeing persecution and related horrors. Rather, GTEC is a machine devoted to tracking down, detaining and deporting as many people as possible who have been failed by Canada’s broken refugee determination process.
For years, the head enforcer at GTEC was Reg Williams, who oversaw an operation where trauma survivors who had been given bad advice, had poor lawyers, or ran into biased adjudicators at the Immigration and Refugee Board were swept up by officers of the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA), thrown into prison as “failed” refugee claimants, and sent back to bleak futures that included torture and death. Williams was recently in the news because of what the National Post described as a “whistleblowing letter” he sent to the Privy Council.
Normally, whistleblowing is associated with the best traditions of revealing grave injustices and malfeasance, and so one might have thought that Williams had had a change of heart and was calling out the government on its failure to live up to Canada’s most basic human rights commitments when it comes to asylum seekers. Perhaps he was troubled by the tears and suffering wrought by the tens of thousands of deportations he oversaw while at GTEC, or the $100 million spent annually on needless and cruel detention and deportation.
But what really got Reg’s goat was the fact that he believed tax dollars were being wasted because, in his view, “as a retired public servant, taxpayer and citizen, I am deeply concerned … that the downward trend in productivity, if not addressed, will threaten community safety and security.” The “productivity” to which he refers are the numbers of traumas that are cruelly imposed on individuals, families and communities when CBSA agents storm into a house, school or women’s shelter to nab fearful folks who are then put onto planes and sent away…