MV Sun Sea

MV Sun Sea Case

The arrival of the MV Sun Sea has caused many people to question the works of the Canadian government in regards to immigration. The case is still ongoing at this time and some charges have been laid; however it has brought out a lot of issues regarding the application of immigration policies. The Canadian government was faced with finding acceptable means to resolve the outpour of problems surrounding the treatment of the people aboard the MV Sun Sea. The ship arrived on August 13, 2010 carrying 380 men, 62 women and about 49 minors on BC’s harbour. According to various news articles, the arrival of this ship is an example that portrays the actions of Canadian immigration officials and how they failed to act aggressively.

Since the arrival of the MV Sun Sea, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has created a new approach that involves taking maximum advantage of detention provisions and where no legal grounds for detention exist to argue for strict terms and conditions, which would include regular reporting to border officials. Another measure that the CBSA is taking due to this incident is that they will gather as much evidence as they can in order to prove that people smuggling is a serious threat to the health and safety of the people in Canada. They are also trying to work with Sri Lankan authorities to verify the identities of the passenger and see if they have any criminal records. In my opinion, by taking this approach, the CBSA might put those with no criminal backgrounds in dangerous if they were to be deported back and would put Canada in a bad position. For instance, in a recent new article 2 people have been deported back to Sir Lanka, but their where about is unknown.

Through a Freedom of Information request, a memo was released stating that refugee determination hearings at the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) would be dealt with in an aggressively manner and it would interfere in each case that comes before the IRB. This memo that was released into the public further shows new measures that the CBSA could take to consider these migrants inadmissible by working with the RCMP and looking at criminal evidence that leads to the charge of human smuggling. If human smuggling charges were laid, it would make it easier for officers to deny admissibility to these migrants because a criminal charge of this nature by foreigners seeking entry is a major ground that officials look at and have to deny entry. But in this incident, it can be harmful sending these migrants back and putting them at risk in Sri Lanka.

Jakubowski takes a look at racism and the law on a Canadian historical front that really unveils the harshness of Canada in regards to immigration in “Managing Canadian Immigration: Racism, Ethnic Selectivity and the Law” in Elizabeth Comack’s book “Locating Law”. She brings out many interesting arguments that range from officials applying immigration law at their discretion and revealing what Canada really wants from immigrants. Jakubowski reveals that the whole reasoning for immigration in Canada was primarily focused on how it would be beneficial from an economical front and how it would bring capital to the nation for cheap. So this idea verifies what Canada started to do and is still embedding this practice today in a sense that it hidden. By having restrictions on being allowed into Canada, is a way to control who they want to let in.

Jakubowski further claims that recently, Canada has preferred to recruit the best and brightest while at the same time closing its doors to many of the most vulnerable. Immigration in Canada is about closing the back door rather than welcoming new people to the nation (Jakubowski). This statement clearly links to the case of the MV Sun Sea as this incident revealed how immigration officials were lacking in exercising their powers upon the arrival of the ship. Documents obtained through the FOI Act as mentioned above, claimed that CBSA did not exercise their authoritative powers to the full extent. I find it interesting that if we look back in time, Jakubowski observed that immigration officials failed to use their discretionary powers fully with the points system. The point system was an attempt to be fair to immigrants, however it still allowed for officers to use their discretion and pick who was admissible to Canada. The Freedom of Information memo that was released revealed that the CBSA will become tougher and act more aggressively on future incidents like the MV Sun Sea. Jakubowski’s would consider this approach by the CBSA to be too harsh and unacceptable. She would bring the incidents faced by the Sikhs and Chinese people upon arrival to Canada as similar examples. In order to gain cheap labor and economic needs, the Chinese were admitted to Canada for the completion of certain projects for cheap labor. You can apply a kind of Marxist perspective here because Canada wanted to gain capital and with immigrating people to save cost to build the nation. This attempt led to the continuous road of immigration in Canada, which people are complaining about today. Jakubowski would put forth that Canada is supposed to be a multicultural country, but why is Canada choosing to become more “aggressive” on immigration?  There needs to be some clarification here of what they mean on being “aggressive” and in regards to the MV Sun Sea, those who do not poses a major threat to Canada, should be allowed proper treatment and refugee status.


Comack, Elizabeth (Ed.) (2006). Location Law: Race, Class, Gender, Sexuality Connections, 2nd Ed. Halifax: Fernwood.

“Managing” Canadian Immigration: Racism, Ethnic Selectivity, and the Law” Lisa Marie Jakubowski (P.94-122)

News article (Vancouver Sun)à 9/story.html


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One response to “MV Sun Sea

  1. You suggest that “The Canadian government was faced with finding acceptable means to resolve the outpour of problems surrounding the treatment of the people aboard the MV Sun Sea”. I wonder if this is the case. An alternative interpretation would be that the Canadian government perceived the people aboard the MV Sun Sea to be the problem – that is, the problem to be dealt with was the mass ‘irregular arrival’.

    You present an interesting analysis of the MV Sun Sea case in relation to Jakubowski’s arguments. Be sure to use in-text citations to properly acknowledge your sources – in this case, the Vancouver Sun.

    In your conclusion, you question the Canadian government’s decision to become more ‘aggressive’ on immigration. Critical Legal Studies scholars might begin to respond to this shift in policy by noting the ideological significance of ‘citizen’ vs. ‘non-citizen’ rhetoric.