Controversy of MV Sun Sea case

The case involving MV Sun Sea had gathered a lot of controversy at the time when it was actually taking place and continues to present a lot of legal, ethical and political challenges at present time. This case has been lighting rod in attracting attention of opponents and proponents of Canadian immigration reforms in general and dealing with refugees coming to this country in particular, gathering along the way, very heated discussions involving different opinions often significantly biased, from various groups representing law enforcement agencies, immigration and refugee board, defence lawyers and Canadian border agency (CBSA). Not since the time of ill-fated journey of ship St. Louis from Nazi occupied Germany, Canadian authorities were facing en masse arrivals to Canadian shores of such significant amounts of refugees from abroad.

Society at large was polarized in their opinions as to what Canada has to undertake to deal with this issue. Enormous amount of resources including monetary, personnel and logistical contributions have been spent by the federal government and all its subsidiaries to deal with this case which still continues to gather attention and create controversy. Putting special interests aside (refugee lawyers, immigration refugee board, CBSA and law enforcement agencies), general publics sentiment by and large was strongly opposing granting asylum to this group of Sri Lankan refugees. Modern Canadian society, largely built through immigration, particularly in large cities, expressed strong sentiments favoring enforcing legitimacy for admission process for refugees. Consensus among the public echoed by federal government stated that it is illegitimate to jump the cue to gather admission to this country bypassing existing channels created by United Nations affiliated organizations dealing with refugees (as an example, utilizing existing refugee camps in South Eastern Asia for refugees from war torn countries of this region).

Strongly biased defence lawyers representing refugees argued that not granting refugee status to those seeking asylum and sending them back to Sri Lanka would ultimately sign the death verdict at the hands of Sri Lankan government. They argued that some of the asylum seekers were part of the Tamil Tigers group hunted by the government of the state. However, at the same time, they “conveniently” failed to mention that Tamil Tigers were classified as a terrorist organization trying to overthrow the elected government. As the result of failure to achieve their goals, they used women and children as a human shield to gain access to Canadian land bypassing aforementioned channels. People responsible for organizing this mission, had deliberately chosen to sail across vast mass of water to go to Canada as opposed to sailing to the much closer Austraila, while knowing  well that very harsh Australian laws would not allow them to even enter country’s territorial waters. In situation as such, Canadian government had chosen the only reasonable outcome, to allow the ship to enter our territorial waters but decided to detain all ship occupants, limiting their freedom of movements in the interests of national security and preventing them from spreading across North American continent.

As of today, 117 refugee claims were accepted and 117 refugee claims were denied with 2 people still remaining in federal custody. 29 deportation orders have been issued. Judging by these numbers, Canadian government showed its significant restraint in blindly refusing to acknowledge illegitimacy of their entry into the country  by granting 117 people refugee status and sent a strong message stating that Canada as a society still governed by the virtues of compassion and understanding of refugees plight. On the other hand, the federal government, through its immigration refugee board and CBSA, showed an example of strong determination that the country’s territorial integrity and national security has to be protected by various means and no new precedents for illegal arrival of groups of refugees should be permitted. Canada should not be viewed as a “weak safe haven” by any group seeking immediate and illegal entry by bypassing officially established United Nations channels for dealing with these kinds of problems.

MV Sun Sea case has been instrumental in allowing Canada to get much more closely involved with its international allies in monitoring traffic of illegal refugees and participating in creation of framework of international laws dealing with this complex issue of human smuggling. Canada has been an active participant in creating intelligence networks with several other countries of this region, allowing it to have early warnings and means of interception and detention of similar missions in the future.

Arguably, Canada still continues to be “desired” land for groups attempting to arrive to this country claiming persecution and trying to avoid accepted channels of immigration established by the Federal government. Examples of Roma, from Czech Republic and Hungary, claiming persecutions in the democracies of European Union is another example of legacies stemming from the case of MV Sun Sea. The lessons learned from this case have been successfully employed in creating legal frameworks allowing authorities responsible for creating and enforcing immigration laws to deal with the new challenges related to refugee admission to this country in more successful ways.

References 1) Quan, D. (2013, October 11). Immigration Lawyers call for review of all failed MV Sun Sea refugee claims. Postmedia News. Retrieved from http://www.canada.com/news/immigration+lawyers+call+review+failed+refugee+claims/9028384/story.html

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

3 responses to “Controversy of MV Sun Sea case

  1. You present an effective initial framing of the MV Sun Sea case.

    You propose that “Putting special interests aside (refugee lawyers, immigration refugee board, CBSA and law enforcement agencies), general publics sentiment by and large was strongly opposing granting asylum to this group of Sri Lankan refugees.” Without disagreeing with you, I would like to invite you to provide some support for this statement. How do we know that this was the general opinion (much less the consensus) of the Canadian public?

    You also describe the lawyers who represented the refugees as ‘strongly biased’. This is an interesting descriptor. The job of an attorney in this sort of case – as in others – is to be an aggressive partisan advocate for his or her client. Is it reasonable to expect that lawyers in this position act in an ‘unbiased’ way? I have seen no evidence to suggest that immigration lawyers denied the status of the Tamil Tigers – the listing of the LTTE as a terrorist entity is a matter of public record, after all.

    I am interested in your argument that: “In situation as such, Canadian government had chosen the only reasonable outcome, to allow the ship to enter our territorial waters but decided to detain all ship occupants, limiting their freedom of movements in the interests of national security and preventing them from spreading across North American continent.”

    Again, without disagreeing with you, I wonder if you could explain why this course of action (as opposed to another course of action) was the only reasonable option?

    I am also curious about the equation of a more welcoming immigration policy with the concept of ‘weakness’. How would a policy that is less informed by enforcement priorities and more by a stance of welcoming refugees be ‘weak’? The use of the terms ‘strong’ and ‘weak’ to describe immigration policy is interesting.

    Finally, how does the MV Sun Sea case fit with Jakubowski’s analysis of the historical features of Canadian immigration law?

    • 1) through extensive research regarding this topic, i read major national newspapers incorporating researchers public opinion and my statement is based on research conducted by major public opinion polls which were statistically significant. based on these readings, i deduced that opposition to the granting unconditional refugee status to all migrants was opposed by canadian public at large
      2) I meant in my statement, not to negatively comment on the professional responsibility of lawyers to defend their clients, but simply emphasize the point that lawyers representing sri lankan refugees, in my opinion, have used media and all other avenues to present their opinion in rather very aggressive ways. They tried to use court of public opinion before any conclusions about admissibility of migrants were objectively reviewed and decisions were made. My inference to lawyers bias is referred through the prism of their accusations of canadian immigration system being unfair and unjust to ensure that canadian public would put immigration authorities under duress
      3) canadian authorities used this course of action based on well known precedents happening before when refugees from south eastern Asia arrived to the shores of British Columbia and were let go without appropriate ways of checking their whereabouts and many of them ended up in various parts of United States, including New York’s chinatown where they were found to be living illegally. Another aspect of importance of the containment was to ensure that they did not bring to the country, various communicable diseases to jeopardize public health issues.

      • addendum: for the fourth question, i respectfully decline to elaborate more since i did not use the word ‘weakness’ to describe national policy on immigration but rather as an adjective to the more important statement of safe haven for illegal refugees. i use the word “weak” in quotations which does not imply true meaning of the word weakness. it has rather metaphorically meaning