Today is World Refugee Day. This piece criticizes Canada’s lack of commitment to assisting refugees, excerpt below:
Take for example, the case of the 492 individuals who came to Canada aboard the ship MV Sun Sea following a brutal civil war in Sri Lanka. A recent program about this war by Britain’s mainstream Channel 4 tells a dark and devastating story. The film, “Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields,” depicts executions, sexual violence, and what appears to be the deliberate shelling of civilians, even inside hospitals.
Our government, apparently, feels otherwise. Upon their arrival in Canada following hardship and trauma, and a desperate, months-long sea voyage, all of the Sun Sea’s passengers were taken into detention. This included children who, though not officially detained, were kept with their mothers in “low-risk facilities.” One of the detainees, a woman in her seventh month of pregnancy, was taken to hospital for the birth, and returned to detention with her new baby. Most of the passengers were held for more than four months. Among them a woman, pregnant with twins and badly injured in her arm, along with her three children.
Such detentions and treatment represented at that time, a significant departure from what had been the normal response to asylum seekers in Canada. Under our current laws, there is ample opportunity to detain an individual if he or she is suspected of being a security threat, to verify his or her identity, and for other reasons.