"Ms. Sgro, whose rights are you going to take away today?"

Judi Sgro, a member of Paul Martin's newly minted Minority Cabinet, is adding dangerous folly to folly as she builds her governmental record. During the previous election campaign, she debased her former cabinet portfolio to the status of Minister of FUD by appearing at a campaign stop of the current and former Leader of the Opposition, with the sole intent of throwing heckling questions at him designed to raise doubts that he would re-open the abortion debate in Canada.

"Mr. Harper, whose rights are you going to take away today?" she squeaked from the sidelines. Never mind the very real philosophical doubt about when life begins and when a fœtus becomes a human worthy of protection under law — and no matter what side of the political debate you may find yourself on, you must deal with that question one way or the other. To do so flippantly in either direction is offensive. But in this case, it was just a whining innuendo that Mr. Harper would be sure to revoke 25 years of judicial and legislative ambiguity over the heads of any protest, given the chance. An implication that her party would be a better protector of civil society than Mr. Harper's.

But now, as Immigration Minister, she is perfectly willing for the sake of expediency to pressure the churches to relinquish their practice of offering sanctuary as a faint hope to those whose pleas for harbour from nasty countries of origin have met with a rebuff.

In Canada, we like to think of ourselves as a more civil society than that of our southern neighbour but knocking this notion of houses of faith as places of refuge flies in the face of that impression. Such a legal provision of final refuge goes back a long ways, beyond the Middle Ages, back to Græco-Roman times, back even to the ancient Jewish Torah. Perhaps the churches need to temper their offers of refuge once a "final appeal" has been lost as even the "Cities of Refuge" laws demanded. But to ask the churches not to offer themselves as final refuges places our legal system in danger of adopting some of the arbitrarily tyrannical characteristics of pre-Hammurabic law.

This is not a direction we want to go, people. Because even if you're in the majority today, one of your descendants may someday be in an oppressed minority and if you erase the recourse to refuge today, so as to stop the Terrorists! your actions will quite possibly expose your own flesh and blood or that of close friends and neighbours to the overzealous working of the long, strong arm of the law.

The right way forward here may not be that hard: Instead of asking the churches not to supply perpetual safe-harbour, perhaps the right thing would be for the churches to find other 3rd countries that would welcome (and give long-term safe harbour to) these individuals whose plea for refuge in Canada has fallen on deaf ears. But trying to pressure the churches into relinquishing their millenia-old role as the harbour of last resort is not just foolish (as the "heckle Mr. Harper" episode was) but dangerous in the sense that it increases the risk that unjust turns the law might take at the behest of tyrannical majorities would have no limit to their power of exercise.

Stop it, Ms. Sgro. Have none of your own forebears ever needed this safeguard? I cannot believe it. Will you nor any of your descendants never need it yourselves? It seems still more unlikely. You'd probably be hurting yourself if you succeed; but even if you aren't, removing this recourse isn't building up the civil society your anti-Conservative FUD was implicitly promising Canadians that the Liberals would be better at defending.

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