Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sunday Stories

Another refugee ship arrives on Canada's shores -- carrying Tamil refugees fleeing a country scarred by decades of grisly atrocities, on both sides of a protracted civil war -- and once again there erupts a mean-spirited fury worthy of Ebenezer Scrooge.

There are demands that the refugees be arbitrarily refused the right to land; that they be given food and sent back to whatever fate awaits them; that their ship should have been intercepted on the high seas; that they be diverted to other countries in South Asia, as if Pakistan with 14 million internal refugees from floods or Afghanistan, the world's leading source of asylum-seekers at the moment, were in any position to help.

There's resentment about providing medical treatment; resentment because we have dreadful conditions on Indian reserves that need to be addressed first (but haven't for 100 years); resentment because homeless people camp out on the streets of our major cities; resentment because the refugees are to be fed and housed while their pleas are assessed; resentment that Canada's constitution guarantees everyone the right to "life, liberty and security of the person."

Why such rage directed at such a minuscule group? These 492 refugee claimants amount to about 1.3 per cent of the refugees who come to Canada each year. Asylum seekers from Sri Lanka are way down the list both now and historically.

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