Whether we liked it or not, the Tamil refugee ship docked in Victoria, and the 490 passengers made it safely into the hands of the BC correctional system. Handling that many people at once isn’t such a problem for our border and immigration services. They see about 30,000 refugee claimants a year. It still made a lot of people think good and hard about how (and if) our immigration system works.
It’s clear that there are people-smugglers are involved in this, but I don’t believe that the Tamil refugees had many options other than that tramp freighter. While I haven’t met anyone trying to immigrate to Canada, my friend Tarra had to go through the US system to be with her husband in Seattle. It was expensive and a bureaucratic pain in the ass, but I imagine it was preferable to spending three months in a crowded ship with a suspect toilet. Sri Lanka doesn’t exactly have the best human rights record, and these are members of an ethnic group that just lost a major civil war. When the Tamils in Toronto speak to the media, they often hide their faces so that their relatives back home won’t get harassed by the authorities. It doesn’t sound like they could just go to the Canadian consulate in downtown Colombo and start the immigration process.
I think the government is doing exactly what it needs to do: investigate the refugees on a case by case basis, and prosecute any snakeheads or terrorists that they find. Liberal MP Keith Martin suggested that we set up refugee camps abroad so that we can undercut the people smugglers and put them out of business. Personally, I don’t think you should need more than a clean criminal record and an A on your TOEFL to get into this country. We have so much room. Canada’s so depopulated it’s like we’re doing a dress rehearsal for the rapture or something. Immigrants also create jobs by using government and commercial services. Our sales taxes ensure that they provide revenue for the rest of us. Taking refugees also undermines repressive regimes that we don’t like, but don’t have the money to topple militarily. It’s easy to get angry when we see the government devoting time and money to people who aren’t citizens, but if we’re committed to human rights and democracy, I can think of no better way to put our money where our mouth is.