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The Gauntlet

Blame on both sides

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This summer four ships from Fuijan, China illegally arrived on Canada's west coast. The passengers are hopeful immigrants, many of whom were ill and malnourished. The question as proposed by mainstream media is, "What should the government do about these six hundred people?" Prime Minister Jean Chr├ętien, who was at an APEC meeting in Auckland, New Zealand, asked Chinese President Jiang Zemin the same question. President Zemin's reply was to the effect that people are illegally risking their lives in a Pacific passage to Canada because of our easy migration laws.

Just so everyone is clear on the basics, I'll repeat: a bunch of people leave everything they have and know, board a boat that might fall apart tomorrow, sail for two months across the Pacific with little food and no belongings, hoping to be welcomed in Canada. The reason, says Zemin, is Canada's laws are too soft. Am I the only person who finds flaw in Zemin's reasoning?

Canada is a great country. We have the highest standard of living in the world. Who wouldn't want to live here? To what extreme will people go to live here? Are the conditions in Fuijan so bad that risking life sneaking across the Pacific Ocean is a better option than staying home? What if the answer is yes? Instead of, or as well as, helping the six hundred people migrate to Canada, perhaps we should offer assistance to China on a much larger scale. The problem with that argument is life in Fuijan is not paradise, but it is not a famine-driven war zone either. The Canadian government is more than happy to aid countries with starving masses. However, we are not prepared to help areas where the standard of living is above starvation, but below comfort. Our foreign aid program is to do just enough to be thought well of, but not enough to actually help. We need to start thinking of the global standard of living. Because Canada has succeeded in achieving comfort we are in a position where we can reach out, helping other nations obtain that which we enjoy.

Helping is why the illegal migrants spent their families' savings. Their plan was to work here and send the earnings home. They want to provide comfort, luxury and stability for their families. This is not a crime; in fact, it is very noble. Unfortunately, there are proper methods of helping your family, and being smuggled is not one of them. The department of immigration should send these six hundred back to China, and offer real aid on a macroeconomic scale instead. We should help the Fuijan province create an economy of wealth and prosperity.

My advice to you, Zemin, is not to blame Canada for unclear deportation processes and soft laws, but to address the real issue. China has a low standard of living and needs help to improve it.

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