Reply to Mr Feldstone

I received a number of passionate responses to my earlier Evasion of Duty post, to some of which I responded in bulk yesterday. But I felt that, in particular respect for the writer and for his personal loss in the holocaust, this one deserved its own:

“Your ignorance is displayed loud and clear. You young people throw Nazism around like water but you don’t know how it feels to be persecuted by the Germans. Both my grandparents were murdered in Dachau! There is nothing in Canada compared to that. These Tamils are not running away from the terror my people faced. There is legal ways to immigrate to Canada, opportunities my grand parents didn’t have. You disgust any children of survivors and should be disbarred from any political office for even comparing anything Canadian to Nazi Germany!!” – Ira Feldstone, Aldergrove BC, 2010-09-09

Thank you for your comments. I want to be clear, however, that I did not in any way compare the Harper government, nor any Canadian political party with Nazis, nor did I at any time claim that anything in Canada compares to life under the Nazi regime.

But even today, in troubled places around the world we hear about mass murders, arbitrary imprisonment, and torture of local populations and minorities based on ethnic, religious or even political differences.

I do not want in any way to minimize the import of the suffering of your grandparents nor of any of the many millions of others at the hands of the Nazis. It’s difficult to compare degrees of horror, but with all respect I ask you: Mass murder, imprisonment, and torture of a civilian population, and a day to day life permeated by fear – is that nothing like the terror they faced?

There are people in places like Sri Lanka in fear about being murdered, imprisoned or tortured by their government, just for being Tamils. Is that something we want to support? Whether the fear is well founded is a matter for a competent court to decide, but we cannot discount that the fear is real.

If we go to Sri Lanka, or elsewhere, and find people who are trying to plot an escape from such perceived persecution, people in fear of their lives, and we deliberately interfere with that escape, do we not become accessories to their persecution?

If we work with their government, the very government that they contend is committing these oppressive acts, to identify them and stop their escape, are we not even further complicit? Are we not, then, collaborating with their oppressors?

It sounds to me, though the rhetoric is wrapped in terms of concern for human trafficking and smuggling, that that’s exactly what our government wants to do. It sounds to me like they haven’t thought it all the way through.

Legal Immigration and Refugees

There are indeed legal ways to immigrate here, but the Tamils from the Sun Sea are, more specifically, claiming to be refugees. As such, what they’ve done is also legal.

It is true that this is an option that was not available to your grandparents, and it is in no small part due to their suffering and the suffering of so many millions of others that the UN Declaration on Human Rights came about – recognizing the right of people to go to another country and ask for asylum. This is the very right that the Tamils from the MV Sun Sea have invoked.

If this was available in 1939 rather than 1948, perhaps the (Liberal!) government of the day wouldn’t have turned back the ocean liner St. Louis leading to many of her passengers to later die in Nazi concentration camps, and perhaps many many more as well could have been spared the holocaust.

Let us not interfere with refugees who seek an escape from their own contemporary terror. If we cannot help them, let us at least not contribute to their harm.

Illegal Immigration and Human Trafficking

Let us definitely address illegal immigration and the horrors of human trafficking as well. But in our zeal to do this, let’s be sure we fully honour our duty of care to the all too many persecuted people in this world who stand to get caught in the cross-fire in such efforts.

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