For starters some things need to be clarified about the history surrounding the S.S. St. Louis.
It is true that Canada did turn away the boat carrying 930 German Jews fleeing rampant anti-semitism in late 1930s Germany but this was after Cuba and the United States had already turned the vessel away. Anti-semitism undoubtedly played a part in the turning back of the S.S. St. Louis by all three nations but so did immigration quotas. You see, the S.S. St. Louis left Germany two months before the outbreak of World War II. Europe, technically, was still at peace and so understandably there was little concern that all aboard the S.S. St. Louis faced death if returned to Europe. And death did not meet those returned, at least not at first. The captain of the ship, Gustav Schroeder, was an anti-Nazi German goy and was determined to see his passengers not returned to Germany. He got is wish. Working with Britain and Europe, U.S. officials were able to find refuge for the passengers. Docking in Antwerp on June 17, 1939 some 288 eventually went to the U.K., 224 went to France, 214 went to Belgium, 181 went to the Netherlands, and the rest remained in Antwerp. So by all accounts at the time the passengers did indeed find refuge albeit a temporary one. Tragedy struck them when war broke out (not Canada's fault) and the countries that offered them refuge fell to Nazi occupation (again not Canada's fault). So to guilt trip Canadians into accepting unreasonable immigration quotas and lax refugee laws by exploiting the history of the S.S. St. Louis is disingenuous.
Be that as it may I do not want to downplay the persecution Jews were experiencing in 1939 Germany. But can a parallel be drawn between 1939 Germany and 2010 Sri Lanka where in place of the Jews we have Tamils? I don't think one can be made at all.
Sri Lanka's Tamils are the second largest ethnic group in the country at 12.6% out of a population of 20 million people. Percentage-wise they are as numerous as blacks are in the United States. They are approximately 1/3 the population of the capital city of Colombo and form the majority in several areas and cities in the north eastern part of the country. The city of Jaffna is one example. Thus, Tamil is an official language of Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka is a democratic nation. Though the country is Sinhalese majority, minority groups have participated in the nation's democratic process particularly Sri Lanka's Tamils who have been able to exercise political influence through the Tamil National Alliance. This party was formed in 2001 just before national elections through the coalition of four Tamil political parties. Prior to its formation Tamils have exercised their franchise by supporting one of the four Tamil nationalist parties that comprise the Tamil National Alliance Party. These parties are the All Ceylon Tamil Congress, Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front, Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization, and Tamil United Liberation Front. Tamil political participation has been ongoing for some time. The All Ceylon Tamil Congress was founded in 1944 and has been advocating Tamil nationalism ever since. These parties are to Sri Lanka what the Bloc Quebecois is to Canada.
Since Sri Lanka's Tamils and the Sri Lankan government can be accused of obfuscating facts for propaganda purposes so third party testimony becomes all the more relevant. Even this suggests that Sri Lanka's Tamils are exaggerating and fabricating claims of persecution.
Martin Collacott, who was Canada's Canada's high commissioner to Sri Lanka from 1982 to 1986, has this to say:
The suggestion that Tamils are being persecuted as a people in Sri Lanka, however, is nonsense and is a myth propagated by Tamil extremists. The Tigers have, in fact, tried to systematically assassinate moderate leaders in their own community who do not agree with the goal of creating a completely independent Tamil state in Sri Lanka by violent means. The latest victim of their ruthless campaign was the foreign minister of Sri Lanka, Lakshman Kadirgamar, an ethnic Tamil, who was murdered in 2005.
There can be no doubt that Canada has been more than generous to Sri Lankan Tamils seeking asylum. Between 1989 and 2004, for example, we gave refugee status to more than 37,000 such claimants — far more than to the nationals of any other country. Our largesse is also impressive by international standards; in 2003 we accepted 50% more claims from this source than did all the other countries of the world combined.
Here’s one indication of Canadian generosity, and even laxity, in our treatment of refugee claimants. In order to be successful, the claimants have to be able to make the case that they fled their countries of origin because it was not safe to remain there. Yet, in one year alone, 8,600 Sri Lankans with refugee claims pending in Canada applied to the Sri Lankan High Commission in Ottawa for travel documents so they could go back to Sri Lanka for visits.
These are remarks made by a man who was in Sri Lanka at the time when the civil war erupted and when the black July riots of 1983 occurred.
How about the Canadian government? Writting in the same article Martin Collacott notes:
A further indication that Sri Lanka is not quite as dangerous a place for Tamil refugee claimants as their supporters try to make out is to be found in an internal Citizenship and Immigration Canada communication (obtained through an access to information request by Vancouver lawyer Richard Kurland) which noted that “returnees (to Sri Lanka) are dealt with professionally and, unless there are outstanding criminal warrants, deportees and other returnees are simply returned to the community on arrival after brief and professionally conducted interviews.”
The report went on to state that “other countries have successfully returned large numbers of failed asylum seekers, and Sri Lanka is a safe destination for unsuccessful refugee applicants.” In the same vein, at an Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) hearing in 2006, it was pointed out that more than 100 Sri Lankans (failed refugee claimants, and presumably all Tamil) had been sent back to their homeland and none had been mistreated as their lawyers had claimed they would be.
Still not convinced? The National Post quoted James Clad, the former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defence for South and Southeast Asia in this article as telling the Washington Post:
"I'm not an advocate for sending people back to their deaths, but that is just not happening in Sri Lanka," he said. "I've helped a lot of migrants before, but I know a scam when I see one."
If that is not enough how about the United Nations? According to this Australian Broadcasting Corp. report from July 6:
The report, from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, describes "greatly improved" security in Sri Lanka, and says it should not be presumed that Tamils need asylum.
Ezra Levant has this to say as well:
But with the war over, life in Sri Lanka has improved — so much so that the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees says the security situation there is “greatly improved,” and countries of the world should no longer presume someone fleeing Sri Lanka is a genuine refugee.
Question: Why are we pretending these Tamils are refugees, when even the bleeding hearts at the UN don’t?
With the civil war over and the pretense by which many Sri Lankan Tamils used to scam Canada's asylum system gone can we say that Sri Lanka in 2010 is the same as Germany in 1939? Has it ever been? Can we compare the Tamils on the MV Sun Sea to the Jews on the S.S. St. Louis? The answer is no.
If any comparison can be made it is to the S.S. Komogata Maru and as with that ship Canada shouldn't let those aboard land and with naval vessels escort the ship out of Canadian territorial waters. As with those aboard the S.S. Komoagata Maru the Tamils on the MV Sun Sea are attempting to circumvent Canadian immigration law for quick and easy entry into Canada.
They are in fact illegals and should be turned back. It is highly doubtful that the fate that met the Sikhs on the Maru will be the same for the Tamils. But the fate of those on the Maru was brought upon themselves. Called the Budge Budge riot, Sikhs on board the Maru clashed with with police after refusing to re-board the ship since disembarking in Calcutta. They marched upon the city to protest the British colonial government's intention of placing all those aboard the boat on a train to be returned to Punjab. Had there been co-operation instead of belligerence then no one needed to die in the resulting riot. Again, this is not Canada's fault.
But the trip of the S.S. Komogata Maru had been provocative in nature. It was meant to challenge Canada's continuous journey regulation regarding immigration. It was a political statement not an act of innocent immigrants seeking a better life. (As an aside what is oftentimes missing in this narrative is the assassination of William C. Hopkinson by Mewa Singh. Mewa Singh is considered a hero by some Canadian Sikhs and William C. Hopkinson an enemy. So one of the few assassinations of a government official in Canadian history was committed by a Sikh immigrant who is celebrated by other Sikhs who bizarrely call themselves Canadians.) Same can be said of the MV Sun Sea. It is equally a political statement as it is an immigration scam. The awarding of refugee status to Sri Lankan Tamils scores the Sri Lankan Tamil independence movement political points to be used against the Sri Lankan government.
To finish a few things need to be stated. The first is that past events in Canadian immigration history should not be used to dictate present immigration policy. The second is addressing whether those who arrive from Sri Lanka are refugees at all. To much ink and energy is being wasted discussing who and who is not an LTTE terrorist. This is a distraction from the real question: are they refugees at all? I think it has been well demonstrated that those who arrived on the MV Sun Sea are not refugees and should be returned. And I mean all of them. Doing so will ensure that no LTTE terrorist enters Canada who arrived on the MV Sun Sea and it will discourage others from risking their lives on the high seas. This has immigration scam written all over it. Sri Lanka's Tamils have been gaming Canada's refugee system for far too long to let it continue. There are real refugees out there. Let's pay attention to them. Thirdly we shouldn't lose focus of the fact that most refugee claims are made at the nation's airports and border crossings. What happened off the coast of British Columbia happens everyday at those points of entry. This has to do with the Singh decision of 1985 and why the notwithstanding clause needs to be used to revoke it. It has given birth to a costly and inefficient way to determine refugees while undermining Canadian sovereignty. A better way for Canada to meet its commitment to the world's refugees exists.