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editorial

Canadians, and indeed the government of Canada, are on balance in favour of more immigration, rather than less. They don't want to treat new arrivals as if they were mostly people suspected of crimes or likely to commit future crimes. Instead, they should receive "humane and dignified treatment," as the government has put it.

So it's welcome news from the Minister of Public Safety, Ralph Goodale, that the federal government plans to build facilities in Vancouver and Laval, Que., which should become noticeably less grim and Dickensian than they are now. The Laval building is reportedly in particularly bad shape. Vancouver is said to be better.

The government is allocating up to $138-million to pay, not only for new and improved buildings, but also for "community supervision programs" in partnership with "stakeholders," which presumably means non-governmental organizations and civil-society groups of various kinds.

The principle behind all this is evidently that immigrants are to be given the benefit of the doubt, and that detention should be a last resort. Above all, children should not be detained, or only briefly – although separating children from their parents is troubling, too.

Some cranks may complain that the government is trying to coddle potential terrorists, but events in Canada in recent years have shown that the few terrorists or would-be terrorists are far more likely to be homegrown, troubled youths, usually self-destructive.

In a few cases, Canadian governments and courts have struggled with long sagas about men who have been thought to be implicated in terrorism outside Canada, but have been kept in Canada for fear that they would be tortured in other countries if they were sent back. The most recent instance is the in-camera trial, under a security certificate, of Mahmoud Jaballah, who came to Canada in 1999 and finally was released last May, after the Federal Court of Canada examined the facts more carefully.

Mr. Goodale's sensible proposals on Monday will not eliminate the conundrums of Mr. Jaballah and other men, and consequently their families. Come what may, however, we should never let ourselves get caught up in anything like the entanglements of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.