This week the Harper government revealed plans for dealing with refugee vessels, citing concerns of human smuggling and trafficking.
In this vein they want to work more closely with foreign governments to stop those boats at the source. But, since we’re talking about refugees who, by definition, are fleeing persecution, such sources are arguably the very governments they’re fleeing. This brave new policy is sordidly familiar, akin to collaborating with the Nazis to stop the flight of Jews.
But, going further, while Canada supports the UN Declaration on Human Rights that provides that everyone has a right to seek in another country asylum from persecution, as well as conventions that clarify our obligations in such matters, it turns out that if refugees don’t reach our territory we don’t have to do anything.
So they propose to stop on the high seas vessels carrying such persecuted souls, and turn them back well before they get to Canadian waters; if we build the wall high enough, and make it impossible for refugees to actually get here, we can bask in our warm pious glow and never have to actually face them.
They bull-headedly insist upon framing the whole debate in terms of terrorism, human trafficking, and human smuggling – so they can swagger and talk tough about “law and order.” These are indeed abhorrent things, and of course we must fight them; but the issues here under attack are common decency, humanitarianism, and respect for human rights and international law.
In the case of the recent Tamil refugee vessel, MV Sun Sea, for example, we have no credible argument of illegal entry, illegal migration, trafficking, or smuggling; we see nothing less than desperate people exercising their lawful rights against a process specifically designed to defeat them, against a government cravenly pandering to the lowest common denominator of their political base.
Forsaking people in great need, who have only hope and seek only a life free from persecution, this government will but compound the misery and betray us all into collusion with oppression.