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UPDATE: Council statement on Tamil refugees

The federal government must always be conscious of the human rights abuses that refugees seeking asylum in Canada may be fleeing.

There is ample evidence of human rights violations and humanitarian suffering in Sri Lanka. In fact, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon recently appointed a panel to investigate war crimes and genocidal acts committed by the Sri Lankan government against Tamils.

The 492 Tamils who arrived in Canada recently on a migrant ship experienced terrible conditions on a long and dangerous journey across an ocean. Rather than criminalizing those fleeing oppression, as has been done, the federal government should rally international efforts to pressure the Sri Lankan government to respect human rights. Without real peace in Sri Lanka, we can expect that Tamil refugee claims will continue. We should welcome those escaping persecution.

The government’s obligation is to treat every person arriving to Canada equally under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and ensure timely and fair decisions on their refugee claims. The government must also respect the United Nations Convention on Refugees which prohibits penalties against refugees who arrive without pre-authorization given the understanding that refugees, by definition, flee dangerous circumstances by unconventional means.