The civil war has been good to Sri Lankan Tamils. It provided for them a context to build a persecution story around and make refugee claims in advanced western societies like the U.K., Australia, Germany, France, the U.S., and especially Canada.
It is estimated that the number of expat Sri Lanka Tamils is 600,000-800,000 world wide. If that is correct then Canada is home to over a quarter to one third of them at an estimated 200,000 to 250,000. Toronto alone is home to more Sri Lankan Tamils than any individual Sri Lankan city prompting this man to call Toronto the largest Sri Lankan Tamil city in the world. As a percentage of the population that is not true but as numbers go then he is right.
The large Sri Lankan Tamil community in Canada and especially Toronto can be explained by what is called "self selecting immigration". What this means is that immigrants literally invite themselves into Canada mostly by way of refugee claims and visas as a way to bypass the points system which is how Canada determines who it deems fit to come to the country based on Canada's economic need, not the immigrant's. Sri Lankan Tamils for the most part invited themselves into Canada, not the other way around.
Canada is to blame for this, not Sri Lanka's Tamils. The only thing they can be accused of doing is seeing a good thing and taking advantage of it like any good opportunist. Canada has created a refugee system that invites abuse and rewards it. With an inexplicably high acceptance rate for Sri Lankan refugees, reaching to a little over 80% at one time, Canada was understandably flooded with refugee claims from Sri Lanka to the tune of thousands each year since the odds were in their favour. The result: the largest Sri Lankan Tamil community in the world in as little time as a quarter of a century. Not bad seeing how Canada has no historical or cultural ties to the island nation. Indeed, before Sri Lankan Tamils began protesting on Toronto's streets most Canadians didn't even know Sri Lanka existed let alone find it on a map.
But are Sri Lanka's refugees really refugees or ever were? If they were Sinhalese then no. Sri Lanka's sizable Tamil minority may have legitimate grievances but are they bad enough to grant them asylum in Canada and to so many? I have my doubts. Here is one snipet of interest from this Toronto Star story.
"The LTTE is defeated. That is a fact. And I am in agreement with that," said Ratnasingam, who studied accountancy in Colombo in the late 1990s, fled to Singapore, and then arrived in Canada in 2001. "But the fighting ... can only be solved with a political solution. Peace is not the absence of violence. Peace is justice."
His path to Canada is pertinent to what I am getting at. What exactly was this individual fleeing? The fighting in Sri Lanka is concentrated in the north eastern part of the country yet Colombo, where this man studied accountancy, is located in the south west and away from the conflict. Colombo is where famed British science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke spent the latter years of his life. Colombo, it seems, is a pretty safe place for refugees to go to exercise what is called "internal flight" which is the seeking of refuge within one's home country. Also the man said he studied accountancy. What kind of persecuted minority targeted for genocide has the opportunity to study accountancy in their land of alleged persecution? In any event, he still did not feel safe enough in Sri Lanka so he fled to Singapore which causes me to ask what persecuted minority targeted for genocide can freely obtain a passport from the government that is persecuting him and board a plane to seek "refuge" in another country? By the U.N.'s own Declaration on Human Rights a refugee is expected to make an asylum claim in the first safe country of passage which in this case was Singapore. But why Singapore when he could have fled to the Tamil dominated southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu which is a lot closer than Singapore and a heck of a lot closer than Canada. However he still found his way to Toronto. So the man rejected the internal flight option, rejected a safe country of passage, rejected finding refuge in Tamil Nadu, and came to Canada at last. This sounds like asylum shopping to me and I think this is characteristic of the Sri Lankan Tamil community as a whole. These people were not honestly seeking refuge in Canada. They simply wanted to immigrate.
In a related piece we read from this Asian Tribune article.
I, as he once was, was an ardent supporter of ‘Eelam’ I came to this country [Australia] by using the excuse of ‘genocide’ by the Sinhala, Buddhist people when in reality, I left the country with a passport issued by the Sri Lankan Government, and boarded a plane from her international airport.
Before ‘becoming a refugee’ I lived amongst the Sinhala people all my life, went to school with 99% of my friends from that community, enjoyed life with them and graduated from one of that country’s premier Universities.
I was able to find gainful employment...in this country, because of the quality of education I received, free of charge, from that country.
As soon as I landed in Australia, I began working towards obtaining my Permanent Resident Visa by betraying and demonizing my best and dearest friends. I used the ‘1983 black July’ riots to justify my case and submitted may case though I knew very well that, no decent Sinhala person was even remotely involved in it. I knew it was not an ‘ethnic problem. I knew it was a ‘social’ problem whereby the people living on the fringes of society, made use of the situation to loot and grab whatever they could from wherever they could. They came from all ethnic groups including Tamils.
And from another we read from here:
As Tamils how many of us would dare to condemn the numerous atrocities committed by the LTTE against civilians in the South. We are only too keen to complain about being searched at checkpoints, raiding of lodges, etc. How many have been apprehended for trying to smuggle arms and ammunition into the South concealed in fish lorries, official vehicles of GA's ICRC, etc?
On the contrary, they will make an internationally heard din about 'innocent' Tamils being harassed as if 'innocent' Tamils have a label on them proclaiming their innocence! At the same time I cannot help feeling ashamed and disgraced by our Tamil brethren whenever they are successful in attempts at destroying innocent civilian life in the South.
Finally, I wish to state that Sri Lanka is the only country in the world where Sinhalese can call their home and where Theravada Buddhism is found. It is their birthplace and their birthright to remain as a majority community while others at various times have shown that their loyalties are divided. The situation today is such that a Sinhalese or Muslim student cannot enter the precincts of the Jaffna University, whereas Tamil students can freely go about in the South.
Many words are being spent by Sri Lankan Tamil protesters in Toronto to highlight past grievances and conflicts to paint themselves as victims. But how are things in Sri Lanka in 2009? Approximately 18% of Sri Lanka's population is ethnic Tamil. Tamil is recognized as an official language of Sri Lanka, Tamil political parties are functioning in the country that send Tamils to the Sri Lankan parliament, and the Sri Lankan government has a goal to return 300,000 Tamil refugees to their homes. How is this persecution? How is this genocide? Please tell me. I'm sure Holocaust surviving Jews, descendants of Armenians, Rwandans, non-Arab Sudanese, East Timor under Suharto, those of the former Yugoslavia, Ukrainians under Stalin, post-Colombian Amerindians, and so on, want to know.
It seems the government in Colombo is intent on creating a lasting peace on the island nation with minority participation. I see little reason why Canada should be accepting most refugees from Sri Lanka now. It's time to bring some integrity back to Canada's refugee system since much of it has been stolen by those who abused it.