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|Written by Kendall R. Giberson|
|Wednesday, 01 September 2010 00:00|
In 2006, the newly-elected Conservative government branded the Sri Lanka-based Tamil Tigers as a terrorist group. Since then, the Tigers lost their battle against the Sri Lankan government in a bid to establish a separate state for Tamils on the island country.Recently, a little boat called the MV Sun Sea made news by sailing to British Columbia with a cargo of 490 Tamil refugees, most of whom reportedly paid $50,000 apiece for a spot on the crowded, three-month journey across the Pacific. Canadian officials began processing the asylum-seekers shortly after they arrived, and the process to have their refugee claims heard has begun.
In anticipation of the arrival of the ship and its crew, the international media has circulated several reports ranging from the ship's alleged attempted to dock in Australia to a reputed tuberculosis outbreak on the boat. The one idea that kept coming up, however, was that the ship was operated by Tamil Tigers, and a significant number of the people being transported for settlement in Canada were also Tiger members -- an idea nonetheless circulated by the Sri Lankan government. In a poll conducted by Leger Marketing shortly after the ship landed, it was found that 60% of Canadians were in favour of the navy escorting the boat back to Sri Lanka, while only 17% believed that they ought to be accepted as refugees.
The fears behind these results are:
Ø They are taking advantage of Canadian refugee policy by 'jumping the queue.' This fear has caused outrage among many Canadians, particularly new Canadians who have legitimately navigated the seas of red tape in order to gain citizenship. This concern has led many to call for a re-examination of Canada's refugee policies, as we may be seen as an easy target for entry into North America. Note that despite the great distance between Canada and Sri Lanka, these Tamils opted not to attempt to land in places like India (where there is already a significant Tamil population in the south) or countries where they would have better economic opportunities such as Malaysia, Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Singapore, Mexico, or Hawaii or the American mainland. This choice was made either because they knew that they would have been turned away or because they perceive Canada as having better options.Ø If they are accepted as refugees, there will be several more boatloads of Tamils heading for Canada in the near future, increasing the probability of terrorists and war criminals being granted asylum here. This notion was reported by the Sri Lankan government as well as Canadian intelligence, and they are likely well-informed. Unless the refugee system is given a complete overhaul in the upcoming months and depending on the success of the current claimants, we could see more boats shortly.
Ø They will continue to organize disruptive protests in Canadian cities, such as in 2009 when they blocked major streets and highways. With the civil war decisively lost and all the pockets of resistance neutralized by the Sri Lankan military, this fear is unlikely to come to fruition. The protests of 2009 were a last-ditch effort by the Tamils to attempt to gain international support by raising awareness of what they perceived to be genocide.
Ø They have no loyalty to Canada; they just want to take advantage of our social programs while using Canada as a place to re-group and launch a future campaign in Sri Lanka. After all the turmoil that they experienced in their homeland, it is likely that most Tamils would just want to settle down and live in peace. Unquestionably, the dream of a Tamil homeland will live on, and the Tigers will exist as an organization as long as they are funded and possess weapons. Realistically, there may be insurgencies in the future, but it is just a lost cause at this point.
Ø Gangs of Tamil youths will start perpetuating violence in cities like Toronto while extorting the Tamil community. During the height of the Sri Lanka conflict, there were powerful gangs such as AK Kannan in Canada and VVT, which operated internationally, that did undertake illegal activities and were responsible for several shootouts, mostly in Toronto. Due to some excellent police work, AK Kannan has disbanded. Its members were either jailed or deported, and VVT has declined in significance. It can be surmised that the 200,000-strong Tamil community, based mostly in the Toronto area, has become more integrated into Canadian society since the heyday of the Tamil gang activity, and it would be significantly harder for new gangs to operate.
Unquestionably, one person's terrorist is another person's freedom fighter. There is no question that while it is unknown how many of the 490 are actual Tamil Tiger fighters, all of the people had to have supported the group to some extent, as they saw the Tigers as the only organization that was looking out for their interests. Groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and Hezbollah are classified as terrorist organizations, but what is forgotten is that they also incorporate a lot of charitable work into their activities, even going so far as to operate their own medical clinics. Communist parties throughout the world have been demonized in the West, but they were able to gain the support of the people in their countries by being miracle workers in times of crisis, providing food and shelter and health care in times of war or natural disasters.
Canadian laws clearly state that any foreigner who sets foot on Canadian soil has the same rights as any Canadian citizen and will be treated as such unless proven to be a criminal or an undesirable. Several experts on the refugee program confidently state that about 90% of the people who arrived on the MV Sun Sea will be granted refugee status and later citizenship.
The people who braved the trip should receive their proper refugee hearings and be dealt with on an individual basis. Canadians should recognize the fear-mongering for what it is and have faith in the system. It is likely that for most Tamils remaining in Sri Lanka there will be few opportunities as the government will undoubtedly quash any future attempts at Tamil self-determination. For the ones who came to Canada, we can hope that they will start over and leave all their troubles behind them in the old country. The people can be forgiven for flying the Tiger flag, but, if it is discovered that the worst killers in the Tiger movement were let into Canada and cannot be found, there is something definitely wrong.
Tags: badass, boat people, fear, freedom fighters, mainstream media, politics, poll, protest, refugees, sri lanka, tamil, tamil tigers, terrorists, violence, water