What does the term “morally bankrupt” mean?
When is an act so ethically and morally repulsive that we have to stand up and say “No!”?
When we accept that those terms are applicable to a situation in another country, we have a responsibility to speak up.
The current situation is that US President Donald Trump’s government has already acknowledged that its authorities have separated 2,342 children from their parents at the US border with Mexico in a “zero tolerance” policy aimed at deterring illegal immigration.
How does President Trump’s zero-tolerance policy affect Canada and our relations with our southern neighbour?
Our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has indicated that he will not “play politics” with immigration policies as they relate to the controversial U.S. practice of charging and separating illegal migrants from their children.
Without condemning the Trump administration explicitly, PM Trudeau limited himself to saying that his role as Prime Minister is to stand up for Canadian values but also to maintain a constructive relationship with the U.S. He included in his comments the following clarification:
“We understand how important it is to be firm and unequivocal as we protect and support human rights around the world. And we will continue to do that both by example and by engagement with the world.”
However, there is one specific area in which the Trump policy has a direct effect on Canada’s immigration realities. Both countries have concluded the Safe Third Country Agreement, to which the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) takes serious objection. The Council’s website explains the basis for its disapproval as follows:
“Under the Safe Third Country Agreement, in effect since December 2004, Canada and the US each declare the other country safe for refugees and close the door on most refugee claimants at the US-Canada border.
“The Canadian Council for Refugees strenuously opposes the Agreement, because the US is not a safe country for all refugees. The CCR also denounces the purpose and effect of reducing the number of refugees who can seek Canada’s protection.”
According to the more guarded statement made by Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen, Canada’s immigration laws require ongoing monitoring of the domestic asylum system in the USA, and that assessment is currently being done to determine if the USA’s policy change will affect its designation by Canada and the UN as a safe country.
Therefore, he adds: “As some of these changes are taking effect, we will see the impact that they have on due process, on appeal rights, on the ability for asylum seekers to actually make a claim and see whether the United States continues to meet its international (obligations).”
Our country’s Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, offers further clarification on Canada’s existing policy on refugees. According to him, children of immigrants and refugees are detained in Canada only as a last resort and new measures will soon be introduced to offer alternatives to detaining migrants.
Minister Goodale further opined that:”Obviously anyone looking at the human images (from the U.S.) would be very, very concerned…Children are very precious creatures and we all, I’m sure, need to have their safety, their security, their well-being first and foremost in our minds and that is what lies at the very basis of Canadian policy.”
There are international agreements and conventions which prohibit the practice of separating children from their parents or guardians in cases of illegal immigration.
For that reason, the United Nations’ Human Rights office is vocal in its admonition that the Trump government “immediately halt” its policy of separating children from their parents after they cross the U.S. border with Mexico. Spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani declared that the practice of separating families amounted to an “arbitrary and unlawful” interference in family life, calling it a “serious violation” of the rights of children.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has deemed the practice unconscionable. His outright criticism specified that “children must not be traumatized by being separated from their parents.”
Erika Guevara-Rosas, Amnesty International’s Americas Director has emphasized that:
“This is a spectacularly cruel policy, where frightened children are being ripped from their parent’s arms and taken to overflowing detention centers, which are effectively cages. This is nothing short of torture. The severe mental suffering that officials have intentionally inflicted on these families for coercive purposes, means that these acts meet the definitions of torture under both US and international law…”
The verdict is categorical.
President Trump’s treatment of the children and the adult immigrants at the US/Mexico border is morally bankrupt.