Letters of the law

Brian
Brian Jones
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It is tempting, but foolhardy, to scan the headlines and conclude you have seen governance at its most preposterous and idiotic.

Someone, somewhere, who has been elected to public office is surely, at that moment, doing something which, when it becomes breaking news weeks or months hence, will prompt you and millions of others to wince at the weakness of common democracy and decency.

It is tempting, but foolhardy, to scan the headlines and conclude you have seen governance at its most preposterous and idiotic.

Someone, somewhere, who has been elected to public office is surely, at that moment, doing something which, when it becomes breaking news weeks or months hence, will prompt you and millions of others to wince at the weakness of common democracy and decency.

For instance, the constituency allowance spending scandal that saw Newfoundland (and Labrador) MHAs blow public money on booze, artwork and underwear was outstripped in severity and outrageousness by the U.K.'s similar scandal, which famously had one MP spending taxpayers' money to clean his estate's moat.

The preposterousness of governance always escalates, it seems. Sort of like the expanding universe, it goes on and on.

Sometimes the absurdity is shocking in its newness, such as the accusation this week by the head of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service that a few provincial politicians in an unnamed Canadian province hold allegiance to a foreign country.

That likely didn't surprise many people in this province, where there is widespread idolatry of Ireland, but apparently the country's spy boss was alluding to British Columbia and China. Whew. Different coast, different wretched country.

Writers' wisdom

Politicians could vastly improve their performance by paying closer attention to the letters to the editor pages, and taking some of the advice therein. Mind you, they'd have to overlook the demented tracts demanding guns in every cockpit and teacher's desk, and the revival of the death penalty and banning of abortion, but after that it should contribute to improved public policy.

Many journalists are willing to admit some of the best writing in any newspaper is on the letters to the editor pages. If politicians could contort themselves into making a corresponding admission - that the insight and wisdom of some members of the public surpasses their own - maybe the headlines wouldn't be so full of their shortcomings.

A case in point: in October 2009, a ship arrived off the coast of B.C. bearing 76 people from Sri Lanka seeking refugee status. Debate instantly raged about whether they were bona fide refugees, whether they were actually members of the recently defeated Tamil Tigers and whether they should be let into the country. They were initially detained, but gradually released. By early this year, all 76 were free in Canada and, presumably, applying for refugee status.

The most astute observation - and one that probably didn't cross a single MP's mind - came from someone who commented on the oddness that all 76 passengers aboard the ship were young men. There were no women or children. There were no old men.

These days, people often get accused of racism if they question the motives or background of refugee claimants or immigrants. But some questions are definitely worth asking, and it was legitimate to wonder why all 76 claimants on board a ship coming from a war zone were fighting-age men. It is what in some circles would be called a pertinent fact, and in others, a major clue.

After all, when people flee persecution, they usually run en masse. Men, generally, don't leave their women and children behind.

There was an update on the story this week. An internal report of the Canadian Border Services Agency says at least 25 of those 76 men are members of the Tamil Tigers.

According to Canwest News Service, the report "raises the possibility the ship's entire journey to Canada might have been financed and organized by the terrorist group to help settle surviving militants abroad following its crushing military defeat by the Sri Lankan government last year."

Even avid letter writers didn't see that coming. Certainly, Canadian politicians didn't.

Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached by e-mail at bjones@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Tamil Tigers, Canadian Border Services Agency Canwest News Service The Telegram

Geographic location: Newfoundland, U.K., Ireland British Columbia China Canada B.C. Sri Lanka

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  • Newfie
    July 02, 2010 - 13:32

    Great story Brian.

    Letter to the Editor has been my way of reporting news to NL about the backdoor goings on in this province, even though most of the information is not in the news. I attribute that to Managing Editors who are Danny Williams loyalist vetting the news stories to avoid letting people see the real truth.

  • mike
    July 02, 2010 - 13:23

    I agree that you hit the nail on the head Brian,i was going to say that you were right on the money,but i will reserve that statement for the lawyers and immigrant sonsulants,it boggles the mind the amount of money that those people made off the Canadian taxpayers representing those illegal immigrants.This case among others just goes to show the glaring holes in our immigration system,i question the policy that was enacted years ago giving illegal immigrants and those claiming refugee status the same rights as Canadian citizens after they set foot in our country,those rights should only be given to legitimate and bona fide Canadian citizens.If yiu want to question foreign influence in our country you have only to look at the passing of such a disfunctional policy,the only ones to gain from such a policy would be questionable politicians,sleezy lawyers and sleezier immigration officials,the Canadian taxpayers are out of pocket hundreds of millions of dollars since this policy was enacted,also it opens the floodgates for evil and terrorist minded people to easily enter our countryand therby giving them easier access to the United States.It is mainly because of this policy we are getting the name as a terrorist haven.I would to like to know which party in government passed such a sick and disfunctional policy,i am sure that they did not have the welfare of Canadian citizens at heart.Least we forget,remember the group of Tamils that was put adrift in a small open boat off the Avalon peninsulaand hired a bus and driver to take them to Toronto,the bus driver dropped them off in front of the welfare offices on Younge street in Toronto.It would be wise to prod and push our members to change this sick policy as soon as possible .

  • Newfie
    July 01, 2010 - 20:21

    Great story Brian.

    Letter to the Editor has been my way of reporting news to NL about the backdoor goings on in this province, even though most of the information is not in the news. I attribute that to Managing Editors who are Danny Williams loyalist vetting the news stories to avoid letting people see the real truth.

  • mike
    July 01, 2010 - 20:07

    I agree that you hit the nail on the head Brian,i was going to say that you were right on the money,but i will reserve that statement for the lawyers and immigrant sonsulants,it boggles the mind the amount of money that those people made off the Canadian taxpayers representing those illegal immigrants.This case among others just goes to show the glaring holes in our immigration system,i question the policy that was enacted years ago giving illegal immigrants and those claiming refugee status the same rights as Canadian citizens after they set foot in our country,those rights should only be given to legitimate and bona fide Canadian citizens.If yiu want to question foreign influence in our country you have only to look at the passing of such a disfunctional policy,the only ones to gain from such a policy would be questionable politicians,sleezy lawyers and sleezier immigration officials,the Canadian taxpayers are out of pocket hundreds of millions of dollars since this policy was enacted,also it opens the floodgates for evil and terrorist minded people to easily enter our countryand therby giving them easier access to the United States.It is mainly because of this policy we are getting the name as a terrorist haven.I would to like to know which party in government passed such a sick and disfunctional policy,i am sure that they did not have the welfare of Canadian citizens at heart.Least we forget,remember the group of Tamils that was put adrift in a small open boat off the Avalon peninsulaand hired a bus and driver to take them to Toronto,the bus driver dropped them off in front of the welfare offices on Younge street in Toronto.It would be wise to prod and push our members to change this sick policy as soon as possible .