Tag Archives: Tamils

Respinning Unsound Tamil Presumptions in the National Post

It’s time to respin the National Post.

So much so, that I’ve signed up for their 90-day free trial subscription. Mainly, I’m looking to get a stack of newsprint for lining our garden this fall for next spring.

And it’s not just because the CanWest zombie has rebranded itself as PostMedia [whatever they intend that to mean].

So last Tuesday, the editorial board of the National Post released this heap of rhetoric; it cannot stand. Here are some excerpts.

Canada has to act quickly to ensure that our valid interest in protecting genuine refugees who face real persecution at home does not leave us open to boatload upon boatload of economic migrants who should be using normal immigration channels to try to enter the country.

The assertion here is that the Tamils are economic migrants posing as actual refugees. The editorial board is free to assert this if they have some evidence and if they can answer [at the very least] all of these questions so they can demonstrate why they think the 490 are just looking for a better job. There is no evidence to support that presumption.

To this end, it’s smart that Ottawa has pledged to put more pressure on foreign governments to avoid displacing persons and creating refugees in the first place.

This is a great idea if refugee generation was a small industry with sporadic output. The UNHCR esitmates 175 million international refugees and asylum seekers, plus 25 million internally displaced people. The naivety of this tactic is like if Harper could phone up Sri Lanka and ask them to not put out the trash can in front of our driveway so we can get our car out in the morning. And through some easy tweaks the refugees would go away and simply not be our problem.

Stop displacing people? Stop creating refugees? A great idea, but no amount of pressure from Stephen Harper alone will enable that to happen.

Really, though, we’re talking about international NIMBYism. Enough of that, now.

But the truly significant changes will have to come through thorough reform of the refugee and immigration system.

The cost of speeding up the refugee claim system, they argue will please people on the left and right. They’re correct here, but then they include this as their rationale, the faulty assumption that the Tamils are economic migrants:

Once the regular immigration channels were working in a timely manner, there would be less incentive for economic migrants (and other would-be Candians not facing persecution at home) to abuse the refugee process.

Oddly, they’re right about the economic migrant thing. Those who cannot demonstrate genuine refugee status and are just economic migrants will be found out. But are the Tamils economic migrants? It’s convenient for the National Post to assume so. Without proof.

Finally, they long for a system that will

quickly and efficiently sort out the those truly in need of asylum from those merely jumping their rightful place in the immigration line.

It is convenient to muddy the waters between refugees and immigrants. Assert the Tamils as economic migrants, not refugees. Then write about the immigration line.

No One Is Illegal has reviewed several myths about the Tamils and refugees in general. Mixing notions of migrants and immigration is a core tactic of those who wish to keep “others” out of our home and/on native land.

Also, Andrew Coyne at Macleans has a big picture view of what it means for a national to welcome refugees. Unlike the National Post editorial, he does not slide facts aside because they are inconvenient to his analysis.

Politics, Re-Spun on Coop Radio, 8.16.10: The HST, Tamil Ship, Haiti…

Last night it was Imtiaz Popat and I on “The Rational” talking about the HST, HST petition oddities, recall of MLAs, a fall legislative session, the BC Conservatives and the NDP on the HST, a new BC Liberal leader, Kim Campbell and Rita Johnson, a fall federal election, direct democracy, Vic Toews being an immigrant and his messaging, the Tamil ship and hidden and blatant racism, the philosophy of asylum, SFU Political Science department has worked hard to get rid of all full-time female tenured professors, university tenure versus a just-in-time workforce, re-victimizing Haiti, engaging in controversial politics to air out our dirty racist laundry in public, Vancouver and Toronto Pride Parades and queers and Palestine, Wyclef Jean as the Schwarzenegger privatization presidential candidate for Haiti, the increase of reactionary politics in Canada, faith-based policy formation versus the long-form census, G20 charges that don’t really exist and laws that don’t exist, a federal Liberal-NDP coalition, Ignatieff as a political leader rather than an economic leader, bloggers in Haitian camps blogging about their lives.

The video podcast of the conversation lives at Vista Video.

You can watch it in Miro, the best new open source multimedia viewing software: http://www.miroguide.com/feeds/8832

or…

You can watch it in iTunes: itpc://dgivista.org/pod/Vista_Podcasts.xml

or…

The podcast file is at http://dgivista.org/pod/COOP.Radio.8.16.10.mov

Enjoy!

The Tamils’ Gift: Some Needed National Values Exploration

I think one of the key issues in all my questions about the Tamil ship the other day is what kind of Canada do we want. Are we really open to visitors, immigrants, refugees? If there is a federal election this fall, the G20, the long-form census and how we ought to treat “visitors” like the Tamils should define our debates.

What kind of people do we want to join our country? Continue reading

A Basic Primer on the Tamil Ship

Before anyone starts talking about the Tamils who will arrive in Canadian territorial waters today, make sure you understand more than just a 50-word summary of what is going on.

For instance, we have this statement in a news report:

The Tamil Tigers have been outlawed in Canada as a terrorist group since 2006.

via CBC News – British Columbia – Tamil migrant ship nears B.C..

Some questions:

  1. Why are they considered a terrorist group by Stephen Harper and his gang?
  2. Why are they outlawed and how far through Canadian society does that outlawing extend?

That’s a start, but really there are lots of things people need to know before they start spouting half-baked, prejudiced conclusions or go all Komagata Maru on the situation.

  1. Who are the Tamils?
  2. What has really been going on in Sri Lanka?
  3. Are Tamils being persecuted in Sri Lanka?
  4. Who are the Tamil Tigers?
  5. Are they terrorists, freedom fighters or something less black and white?
  6. What definition of terrorism is Stephen Harper using to call them terrorists in 2006 when the disputes in Sri Lanka have been going on for decades?
  7. Why do so many people cram onto boats like this to get to Canada, and do our federal immigration and refugee policies contribute to these situations?
  8. Does the Canadian government prefer rich, or white or European immigrants and refugees to those from other parts of the world, and if so, is that a recent thing or part of our government’s character?
  9. How did this ship get organized?
  10. How much did these people pay to get on?
  11. Who are the people on the ship, like as individuals?
  12. In the CBC report linked above we read: “Last October, another ship, the Ocean Lady, was intercepted in Canadian waters off B.C. after crossing the Pacific from Sri Lanka. The group on board claimed to be fleeing persecution. But there were concerns some had links to the Tamil Tigers. The 76 Sri Lankan migrants from that ship have since been released and their refugee claims will be processed over the next two years.”
    1. What were those concerns that some had links to the Tamil Tigers?
    2. Were those links substantial or things like folks sharing the same last name as some Tigers?
    3. How were those concerns resolved?
    4. Who even had those concerns, because if it was the federal government, I have some concerns about how they like to suspend the Canadian constitution and terrorize peaceful protesters in Toronto 6 weeks ago.
    5. If the migrants were released and are now being processed, does that indicate those concerns were resolved?
  13. What kind of Sri Lankan communities exist in Canada, since we have the largest population of Sri Lankans in the world outside their country?
  14. What do these people hope to do here?
  15. What do we think about immigrants?
  16. Are all Canadians aware that the vast majority of us are immigrants or descended from immigrants?
  17. Is there much of a lingering desire among white people to hold onto our dwindling numerical majority in Canada, and could that influence how we feel about this ship?
  18. No One Is Illegal has a few things to say about the ship.
    1. They characterize the Canadian government and society as having “racist and anti-immigrant sentiments and policies.” There sure is a rich history of that. Does it still exist? Will it affect how authorities and the public consider this situation?
    2. NOII states: “Public officials and the media must refrain from stereotyping these migrants as queue-jumpers or terrorists based on unsubstantiated speculations. The migrants have survived a long and arduous journey in the hopes that the Canadian state will fully comply with its international refugee and human rights law obligations to the right to asylum.” Does this seem reasonable to you?
    3. We also learn that “UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has appointed a panel to investigate war crimes committed by the Sri Lankan military against Tamils last year.” Are similar investigations happening with the Tamils, and if so, who is conducting them? Does all this affect your opinion? Do you wonder why this was not included in the CBC report above?

So as you can see from the complexity of these questions, many of which I have only simple answers to at this point, when this ship in intercepted by the navy and coast guard, or allowed to dock somewhere, or is sent away from here, most Canadians will be quite unprepared to properly discuss what is actually happening.

What is your job as a thinking person as all of this unfolds?

  • be critical
  • keep an open mind
  • be aware of the existence of bias in the media, government and civil servants
  • be aware that you may not be able to discern that bias
  • ask yourself if you know what your own biases, values and opinions are

If we all do our jobs, maybe we can avoid giving ourselves some preventable black eyes.