The question has to be asked: Is Canada a nation of shmucks? More specifically, do we as a nation have the right to control our borders? Do we reserve the right to select who can and can’t enter the country as a visitor or immigrant?
Two coasts, two stories.
From the Atlantic, we hear a tale of an American pleasure boater entering a Canadian harbour and, upon finding that no Border Services offices are present, reports to the local RCMP detachment, which duly notes his arrival and points him in the direction of the Customs and Border Services office at another port nearby.
Upon his arrival at said facility, he dutifully reports in only to have his vessel searched, trashed and heavily damaged by officers. When he protests his treatment, he’s told to shut up or risk being placed on a watch list, which would make international boating not merely an irritant but almost impossible as a pleasurable pastime. The individual in question routinely crosses the Atlantic in his modest sail boat.
It’s likely that this person will never set foot in Canada again, despite having not only been a law-abiding visitor but one who went out of his way to be such.
Contrast that with the situation on our West Coast, where a group of well-funded Sri Lankans essentially gate crashed their way to the front of the immigration queue, and are shown an open door by the federal authorities.
Again, the essential question here is “Do we have the right to control our borders?”
I don’t disagree that Sri Lanka is probably not a great place to live right now. For some people. And that’s an important point.
So, we have a boat containing almost 500 “refugees.” It had to sail half way around the world and past the Philippines, Australia, South Korea and Japan in order to arrive on our coast. All of these countries had potential as safe havens, but it’s a given that none would have provided the welcome given by Canada.
Apparently the Sri Lankans paid as much as $40,000 or $50,000 for passage to Canada on the MV Sun Sea. This is crucial if it’s accurate.
This means that they easily had the money to fly here, with substantial funds to provide a fresh start once here. Of course, applying for an immigration visa and buying a plane ticket provided much less of a guarantee of successful immigration to Canada.
Instead, it was far simpler to buy passage on a human smuggling operation and welcome themselves to Canada by breaking our laws simply by showing up on our doorstep freshly destituted by the exorbitant fees charged by the smugglers.
By allowing these people to proceed into Canada, we do a double injustice.
Firstly, it’s an injustice to every other new Canadian who has done it by the book. Many come from situations as bad or worse than Sri Lanka, yet they found a way to get to a Canadian embassy, fill out the paperwork and do the immigration waiting game.
It’s also a slap in the face to Canadians who are suddenly faced with the additional burden of almost 500 new Canadians who will likely be wards of the state for several years to come.
While the gate crashers are surely worthy of criticism — and likely deportation — in a fair world, the real criminals are the masters and crew of the MV Sun Sea. It’s also where the real sad part comes in.
I’d like to believe that the crew of the ship will be held for trial, fined heavily and jailed for lengthy period before being shipped mercilessly back to their homeland. I’d also like to think that the MV Sun Sea will be seized in the same fashion that we would seize a $50,000 pickup truck found to contain a few trout caught without benefit of a fishing license and sold for scrap.
I’d like to believe that, but I think I’m more likely to see Bigfoot first. This is, after all, Canada.
Bill Greenwood is a local freelance columnist.