Saturday, September 4, 2010

Tamil Refugees (2)

Yea, that refugee question—a tough one. I am dealing with the issue kind of as stream of consciousness, considering various aspects that must be taken into account. Right now, I am glad I am free to write about it without having to make the final decisions. I happily leave that to our unfortunate Government. I recognize that this is kind of cheap and easy, but flatter myself into thinking that, cheap and easy as it may be, all such writings by citizens high and low, may help a government if it is inclined to listen. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Maybe my input on the subject will be read, if they realize I am a card-carrying member of the Conservative Party, albeit a disappointed one. Mr. Harper & Co., yoho! I am here! Your member! I voted for you—or would have if you had a candidate in my riding!

Tough as the issue is, Canada must respond to it and solve it to a degree that we can live with as a nation--and do so on the side of compassion and justice. At the same time, she should do so on her own free will, not forced by cheap majority votes at the UN. Free will does not mean considering only our own Canadian interest. Canada has a reputation, among its own citizens at least, of a helpful, caring nation that sacrifices for the sake of others. That tradition needs to be incorporated in that free will. As a TV commercial puts it, “because it’s the right thing to do.” Certainly the Calvinist thing. Erring on that side even. That’s why I pleaded in my letter to accept these people and not turn them back into the Pacific.

But there’s also a tougher side to my letter. While accepting the present group for refugee processing, Canada should let it be known loud and clear that she will simply force the next ships to turn around as soon as they reach Canadian territorial waters. Potential refugees in Sri Lanka should know that, $45,000 or not, they will not be allowed to land on Canadian soil. It has been suggested that any boat heading for Canada should be diverted to some isolated island for refugee processing. Those accepted could proceed to Canada; those not accepted must find their own way out. That should discourage those who know themselves to be risky for whatever reason or come with hidden agendas. It would be similar to the US’ operating immigration posts at foreign airports with the explicit aim of sorting out risky travelers away from US borders, before they get there. Diverting them might also separate the sheep from the goats. That is, those inclined to respect our laws and procedures and those who don/t. Not a bad way to go, I believe.

Jon Ferry, another Province columnist, has his heart in the right place. Like me, a former immigrant himself, he is full of compassion for the new Tamil arrivals, especially the women among them. Perhaps a tinge of chauvinism? They should be treated “as humanely as possible while they’re in our care.” Does that last clause suggest they should be rejected humanely? Even if Canada should dare do that, it would not be experienced as “humane” by them.

Then Ferry gets tough. He has no “sympathy at all for unscrupulous people smugglers and queue jumpers who come to our country by the back door. Their exploitation of our absurdly lax immigration rules is unfair to other would-be immigrants waiting patiently….” Canada is in a pickle, according to Ferry. If she accepts the group, she will be seen as a soft touch and encourage others to follow. If she rejects the group, she will “risk losing our reputation as a big country with a big heart.” Perhaps. She may also gain the respect of those honest enough to recognize what is really going on. Should Canada even worry about that? Once again, just do the right thing and let the chips fall where they may. I don’t think it will be a disaster, though the nefarious of this world may try to turn it so.

The Toronto Tamil community and their lawyers stubbornly defend the new arrivals. Some will no doubt have siblings and other relatives among them. They insist that they be admitted, even those they do not know. They totally disregard the Government’s suspicion of Tamil terrorists among them, possibly even knowingly are mute about them. After all, this is a tribe and tribal sentiment demands that, in response to outsiders, you close rank, regardless of the issues or individuals involved. Canada has already more tribalists than it needs. It shows up every time a nation with a sizable group of its citizens in Canada finds itself in turmoil. All the immigrants from that country will band together and make this or that demand on the Canadian government. They may even turn against each other on basis of home country divisions, as we have seen in some Asian immigrant communities.

I challenge the Tamil immigrant community. Put your money where your mouth is. If you want these people to be accepted so badly, then offer to put up substantial bail for each individual. In addition, put them up in your community, provide them with jobs and teach them English. Your first priority should be to keep them off Canadian welfare rolls. Prove yourself. Demonstrate your seriousness as Canadians first of all who have the welfare of Canada at heart! We don’t need your tribalism. That’s destructive to the nation.

To be continued in the next blog. See you there.

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