Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 11.20.11
Stanstead, Quebec


Lives measured on the Beer Scale

If you ever want to completely despair over Canada's rapidly receding tolerance, simply read the comments section of any Internet news site. It takes a special breed to become a commenter -- a special breed with "special" spelling and grammar skills.

"Why then dont [sic] you tighten the borders. I t [sic] would be cheaper than paying out in welfare to them after thay [sic] arrive here.???????" wrote one commenter recently, referring to a story on Yahoo! Canada about illegal Roma immigrants and simultaneously redefining the phrase "Yahoo Canada."

"Gypsy trouble again-Not happy to live on Welfare in E.U. only, time to Scam Canada Again. No more 'Refugee Roma'!" wrote JimM, which may either be his first name and last initial or early signs of Tourette's.

The article referred to the sudden wave of Roma people from Europe who have crossed the Canadian border illegally at or near Stanstead and have gone on to claim refugee status. As such, they can draw social assistance and other benefits, even if their claims are subsequently rejected.

The article sites a report by Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) declaring that these claims are "possibly" for financial gain and that "each failed refugee claimant costs Canada approximately $50,000. Based on the number of claimants from Hungary in 2011, these individuals alone could potentially cost Canada approximately $222,100,000."

Forget for a moment that the understaffed, under-resourced CBSA "potentially" has plenty to gain by playing up these figures. Instead, let's go back to the commenters. If you can get beyond the punctuation and the redness of their necks, the implied gripe behind the anti-immigrant stance of these pea-brained pundits is that Roma "degenerates" (honest to God!) are taking precious tax dollars directly out of their pockets -- assuming, of course, that the commenters are actually wearing pants.

But let's also forget the commenters for a moment. (With pleasure!)

I live in Stanstead. It's a small town. If a stranger walks down Dufferin Street, four out of five people will notice and the fifth person will hear about it later from the other four.

So when I walked into the local IGA recently and saw an unfamiliar, dark-complexioned young family -- he with long hair, she modestly dressed, the child clinging -- I thought to myself, "Just over the border...?"

Could be. Maybe not. I didn't introduce myself to find out. But if they were Romani, I couldn't help but wonder: this is what all the fuss is about? These are foreign welfare abusers? And how exactly are they different from our domestically bred welfare abusers? They certainly didn't act like degenerates. Degenerates generally don't hang out at IGA, not even in Stanstead.

I then thought, just how many precious tax dollars are these three going to set me back?

I decided to cost it out on the Beer Scale.

Let's take all those Hungarian claims that CSBA says "could potentially cost" Canadians $221 million. There are approximately 35 million Canadians. That breaks down to $6.30 per Canadian. The average Canadian household is 2.5 people. Total cost of all claimants per household: $15.75 -- roughly the equivalent of one case of twelve on the Beer Scale.

It's actually way cheaper than a case of beer if you happen to live in Alberta or B.C, but don't tell them that or they'll be flooding our provincial borders as refugees of ridiculously high beer prices.

When you put them on the Beer Scale, these claims aren't costing much more than a somewhat hazy Saturday night.

It's really not a huge sacrifice to provide for people who, though going through illegal channels to get here and perhaps doing so for short-term gain, are without a doubt historically and actively persecuted. "Anti-Roma feeling in many European countries still translates into official policies that result in segregation of Roma from the rest of society, deepening and exacerbating their existing poverty and marginalization," stated Amnesty International's Fotis Filippo in an editorial late last month.

The commenters will say that the rule of law must be obeyed (as opposed to the rules of punctuation). But among the ill-founded hysteria and inflammatory rhetoric, it's important to remember that we are mostly dealing with a misunderstood people simply looking for better lives in Canada.

Of course, show them those Internet comments and I'm sure they'll be looking elsewhere.

Ross Murray's collection, You're Not Going to Eat That, Are You?, is available in Quebec in area book stores and through He can be reached at