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opinion

Anyone who has seen the movie Incendies by the Quebec director Denis Villeneuve will have been horrified by the scene in which a man who participated in some stomach-turning atrocities in Lebanon is seen strolling the streets of Montreal. And now, within days of the federal government posting on the Internet the faces and names of 30 people of whom some may be just like that all-too-real character, four suspected international rights abusers have been arrested in Canadian cities. It's a success story, long overdue, that is, nonetheless, coming under attack from some groups that support refugees, and some immigration and refugee lawyers.

The logic of these attacks is baffling. If Canada cannot distinguish between legitimate immigrants or refugees and the criminals, or if it simply cannot rid itself of the criminals, it would cast this country's liberal immigration system into disrepute. If, further, one of those suspected rights abusers went on to commit further crimes in Canada or another country, people would be up in arms, justifiably.

Canada is one of the few countries in the world with a welcoming immigration policy that faces no mainstream political challenge. A tough attitude toward those who take part in atrocities, or serve in groups, even at the margins, that commit atrocities, is entirely consistent with the liberal principles Canada espouses. More than that, the tough policy helps make those liberal principles last.

These aren't Canadian citizens; they've had due process and been ordered out. Some critics argue that they should be charged under Canadian criminal law before their names and faces are posted on the Internet. Imagine having to spend millions of dollars investigating and prosecuting each of dozens of suspected rights abusers. It's impractical, and unnecessary; the main goal should be to find and deport them. (There may be an exception in the cases of major war criminals who would not face justice elsewhere.)

The real question is why it took so long to post the names and faces. The answer, apparently, is privacy concerns, as if national security or the integrity of the immigration system were trifling by comparison. The Conservative government had the sense to override those concerns. Perhaps someone in Ottawa saw Incendies and was moved to act.

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