Viewpoint: Canada’s borders ought to be more open

Alain Philippon, the Canadian who was arrested and charged for not divulging to border authorities the password to his smartphone, was arguably a victim of excessive policing. But one thing’s less arguable: the federal agency that charged him, and the people from whom it gets its orders, victimize many people from abroad on a regular basis.

The Canadian Border Services Association, or the CBSA, is the body that charged Philippon for obstructing its officers from being so intrusive, or, as they might put it, doing their jobs. Besides trying to identify threats to national security at the border, border services administers the legislation that makes up Canada’s immigration regime. And, as it happens, Canada’s immigration regime condemns countless people to a life of hardship for no good reason.

Under this regime the Canadian government permits some people to immigrate to Canada by different channels, some more permanant than others. There’s economically purposed immigration, which largely benefits higher-skilled workers from abroad; there’s family-class immigration, which allows families to be reunited; and, there’s refugee-class immigration. Then there are more temporary arrangements, such as the temporary foreign worker program. There is, however, a cap on these programs, set by politicos and bureaucrats, and so once they’re reached nobody else may enjoy the liberty of moving to the True North, which evidently is not always so strong and free.

For the past decade, the government has been admitting about 250,000 immigrants into the country every year and most of them have been coming through the economic channel. These people come here to work, find a new home, and start a new life because they think coming here is better for their well-being than staying put. And more often than not it decidedly is.

Michael Clemens, an economist at the Centre for Global Development, delivered a talk several years ago in which he showcased some of his research that quantifies a truism we’ve all heard: people’s lives significantly improve the moment they step foot into a richer country. 

Clemens showed that the wage of the average Haitian soars by nearly 700 per cent the moment the Haitian steps onto Floridian soil and finds a job for which he’s qualified. It’s unfortunate that these gains are not within the reach of people who don’t get to acquire citizenship or residency, though, for they come at virtually no cost. 

Still, people worry about liberalizing Canada’s immigration system so that more people may come. And the reasons they offer up for imposing limits on immigration couldn’t withstand a pat on the back, let alone a thorough critique. 

Worried that immigrants will abuse welfare programs or consume too much public healthcare and education? Then bar them from using public services, because giving them nothing is better than not letting them come and giving them nothing. 

Worried that immigrants will affect your wages or job? It’s been empirically shown that immigration has little to no affect on people’s wages and jobs. Some researchers have even found that immigration has a positive effect on these, since the economy grows as a result of immigration. 

Worried that more immigration will change the distinct, unifying Canadian culture pervading this country? Alas, there isn’t one, unless one considers worshipping skate-wearing men with sticks a culture. And, what’s more, supremacy in any form, cultural and otherwise, is fatuous and vile. 

It’s in Canada’s interest to change its immigration system so that it’s far easier for people from all over the world to make Canada their new home. Economists have estimated that immigration restrictions across the world cost the global economy about 100 per cent of global GDP — that’s several tens of trillions of dollars.
It’s not only in Canada’s material interest, though. It’s also a moral imperative, for would-be immigrants have so much to gain. If Philippon’s case is one of excessive policing, then there’s no question: Canada’s borders are excessively policed in more ways than one.