Jonathan Kay: The immigration bar’s cranky
Jonathan Kay: The immigration bar’s cranky (Globe-enabled) campaign against Conrad Black
Five years ago, Pervez Musharraf, then the President of Pakistan, demanded the resignation of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, a major thorn in Musharraf’s side.
Perhaps Musharraf thought he could get away with the power play, since ordinary citizens generally do not concern themselves much with the question of who staffs the judiciary. But lawyers care. And Musharraf’s move spawned an unprecedented phenomenon: a mass uprising with the legal sector, featuring rallies and demonstrations across the country, tens-of-thousands strong, led by staid-seeming men in black suits and white shirts. The hero of that uprising, a constitutional lawyer named Aitzaz Ahsan, might even be seen as a Pakistani stepfather of events that arose a few years later in North Africa. In a 2008 New York Times article, James Traub called Ahsan’s campaign “perhaps the most consequential outpouring of liberal, democratic energy in the Islamic world in recent years.”
“When, eight weeks after the drama, Ahsan drove Chaudhry from Islamabad to Lahore, tens of thousands of people lined the streets,” Traub writes “The 150-mile trip took 26 hours, and every minute was covered live on television … For the next three months, he and Chaudhry crisscrossed the country by car, with Ahsan addressing the delirious crowds.”
I recite all this to remind the editors at the Globe & Mail what an actual “legal uprising” looks like. Given the lead headline on the front page of today’s printed Globe (“Minister faces legal uprising over Conrad Black visa: More join challenge to Jason Kenney on his possible role in residency permit for then-jailed businessman”), I’d say they need some education on the matter. The Globe‘s breathless language summons to mind images of revolutionarily-minded Canadian lawyers barricading themselves in the nation’s courthouses, and declaring themselves sovereign stewards of the breakaway Free People’s Republic of Law School Graduates. If a letter from a few cranky activists constitutes an “uprising,” then I guess the letters page of the National Post is home to a dozen uprisings every month.
The most torqued words here are “possible role” — since the article cites no evidence of any role whatsoever. Based on the evidentiary record, the article might as well question Kenney’s “possible role” in the discovery of the Higgs Boson. The entire basis of the article is a single “open letter” signed by a bunch of immigration lawyers who airily suspect Kenney’s involvement in the Black case.
As I’ve written in the past, there is nothing particularly suspicious about Black’s entry into Canada earlier this year. That notorious criminal Lindsay Lohan also was admitted into Canada on a temporary-residency permit recently. Was there also a “legal uprising” over that? (I’m scanning the back issues of the Globe to see if they covered it. But oddly, I can’t find anything.)
It’s no surprise why the immigration bar is mad at Kenney. When the Liberals were in power, our immigration and refugee policies, shot through with Bleak House-style bureaucracy and endless appeals, were basically make-work projects for the folks in black robes. Any effort to trim this mess back was met with howls of lawyerly outrage, which Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin duly heeded in the name of ethno-politics. Jason Kenney has begun the long and difficult task of reforming all this. And the legal establishment isn’t happy about it.
If lawyers want to write open letters, let them do so to their collective hearts’ content. But don’t call it an “uprising.” When you abuse the truth, not to mention the English language, all you do is give Conrad Black a big fat target for his next column.