My FB status: I'm thankful that I'm not the one making the final decision about the fate of Sri Lankan refugees in Vancouver. While I understand the hue and cry about how they ended up on Canadian soil, I'd be hard-pressed to turn them away. For me, compassion will always overshadow cynicism and I am keen to see how this story unfolds...
Jamie: I am keen as well Liz but I am afraid I would disagree. In my opinion our country does not need 400 some odd more people to clog up the social system. There is a process to come here and smuggling is not one. I have always been of the belief that we need people to come here that will better our country. Not to sound stereotypical or racist but we need doctors and such not more convenience store owners and low level labour. I understand that these people the Tamils have been through horrendous trauma, but the fact is this. Some or maybe a large part of these people may be Tamil Tigers fleeing Sri Lanka to avoid being captured and tried. I am sorry if there are innocent people in the mix but I do not believe that Canada should be a dumping ground for the worlds problems.
Diana: Unfortunately when trained people come here, we don't let them do their jobs. :( They end up janitors, etc.
Jamie: True enough Di. But the majority of the people that are allowed to enter this country possess no skills and are allowed in on compassionate grounds. I am all for being compassionate but not at the expense of adding more people to a country that is straining to find work for people that are born and raised here. Crappy perspective but it is a reality!
Elizabeth: I know. Sigh. And I completely understand a nation's frustration when our debt is already high, jobs are scarce and resources seem to be drying up overnight.
It doesn't seem fair that the system, already overburdened, will be required to enfold 400 more - especially when two other countries have steadfastly refused them entry.
Indeed, there is a process that ought to be followed. (It's the same one my parents navigated in 1965 and I'm so thankful that they were embraced by their country of choice.)
It's the "but" that tugs at me. But...our country protects those who land upon our soil, and it's a law that we, as Canadians, put in place. Who are we then, to disobey ourSELVES?
But...we know not the horrors they faced in Sri Lanka, growing up as we have in the best country in the world. Seems to me that if you're willing to spend 4 long months at sea, packed in with hundreds of others, not knowing what the future holds - if anything - then asylum should be yours.
Back and forth, back and forth I go - this is such a potentially explosive situation, with long-reaching and absolute ramifications, that frankly, it makes my head hurt.
Jamie: Again I totally understand Liz where you are coming from and to a point I agree. If it was me I would do everything to get away. But like I said. Some of these people are believed to be Tamil Tigers. So do we turn away 400 peoplel and not allow potential terrorists in? Or do we allow international criminals to reap the fruits of the Canadian system? I would rather err on the side of caution and say " Sorry not here".
Rob: Let's send all those Irish boat people back instead!!... oh wait, that would be me...
Jamie: Jesus Rob! Who would farm the potatoes!
Elizabeth: I get it, Jamie. I do. I worked with dozens of Sri Lankans in Toronto and they were terrified of the local Tamil Tigers (yes, they're here already, in VAST numbers), something I'd never had to contemplate.
And I believe that the world is watching - some for nefarious reasons - to see what happens on the West Coast. I'd hate to become a nation of terrorist-harbourers, but on the other hand...I think I'd hate more to turn away hundreds of vulnerable human beings.
Damned if we don't, damned if we do, it seems.
Carrie: I too struggle with this- i volunteered at the refugee shelter in montreal and saw some of the issues that would come out- issues that these people brought and issues that they had upon arrival.
Erin: I need to comment...I cannot keep my mouth shut on this topic! Not only are these people criminal and uneducated but they are SICK. They are bringing disease and sickness that Canada and its occupants are happy to not have to deal with. Canada has set up a healthcare system that WE pay for to ensure vaccinations and disease are managed. Why on earth would you want to not only flood every other system we have with these people but why would you want to flood our already fragile healthcare system??? I say GO AWAY!!
Rob: For the record, the only Tamil I know has four doctorates (two of them PhDs from Europe) and speaks German, English, and Tamil fluently. He grew up in a church-run orphanage, and when he was old enough he went to say thank you to the German woman who sponsored him as a child. She invited him to stay there and continue his education. He went on to teach at Princeton and now teaches at Liverpool Hope University. He is one of the kindest, gentlest people I've ever met.
Erin: ok did he come to Canada on a boat like the one that just arrived on our door step?
Erin: You cannot stereotype all people but the conditions of this specific group being referred to is s little different would you not say Rob?
Jamie: Good point Rob. And I never paint a people as a whole with the same brush. But as the soldiers in Afghanistan have found out, you never know who the terrorist is. Is it the young man of 20? The young kid of 12? Or the old grandmother that looks like she would never hurt a fly.
It is cold to say but the fact of the matter is this. We as Canadians have enough problems without adding to the load. We have unemployment, homelessness, an inept government that seems content to fiddle while we burn. I am sure that some of these people are good people. But at some point we have to say "No".
Rebecca: Woo. And I thought only the U.S. had strong feelings about "foreigners" trying to buck the system to get away from poverty and oppression....
Jamie: This is not an Arizona thing from my end Rebecca. This is just the reality that we cannot and should not have to help everyone.
Smitha: I think there is something to that particular batch of people. Australia has welcomed tons of Sri Lankan refugees, and there must be steadfast reason as to why they refused these people.
That said - I've seen the plight of the SriLankan tamils first hand, and its not pretty. Neither is the fate of the Simhalese in the war area.
If a country's refusal is based on the fact that refugees eat up resources, that is cold hearted. If the refusal is based on the LTTE suspects, then I'm just sorry for those who are normal people.
Smitha: btw - WHY should we not help everyone? If we were one of them, in a war torn country, escaping to the hope of just walking/sitting without a bomb exploding, would we want someone to turn us away? Because we are unskilled? and sick? Isn't that more grounds of compassion?
Jamie: Why should I pay ? Compassion is great! But I lost my job and now make half of what I did. And I am supposed to pay more taxes because we should look like the good guy and take every other nations people in. I think not. We have enough home grown problems without this.
Elizabeth: I guess I feel that with the privilege of living in a country such as ours, where, fragile or not, a relatively accessible healthcare system IS in place, comes the need to extend ourselves to those who have not.
Disease and sickness exist in every country and with global travel and virtually no part of the Earth untouched, we are going out into the world and exposing ourselves to all sorts of things, period. If these particular people are sick, it's likely from being cooped up on a boat together for months on end. Malnutrition. Mostly treatable.
As for lack of education, I'm not sure that people fleeing fortheir lives are concerned with getting a university degree, but ideally, will be able to achieve whatever goals they set once safely settled.
Criminals? Maybe some. Likely some. But not ALL and there's the rub. There's the rub.
I could never properly answer those ethical questions posed at 2 a.m. after too many bottles of red. Specifically, the ones like this: If you could guarantee world peace by killing an innocent person, would you do it?
Always, still, my answer is...I don't know. Thank GOD I don't have to decide.
But while *I* don't have to, WE do.
Jamie: Liz if you ran for office I would vote for you in an instant. Too bad you have so much common sense ;)
Elizabeth: What is common sense to one is merely a bleeding heart to another. Mark and I have had a few discussions about this, and while we'd normally raise the roof in doing so, we've managed - by some miracle - to keep it to a dull roar.
Thanks for the vote of confidence, my friend. Sadly, I don't have the cojones to run for anything - I'm far too concerned about pleasing the masses. Except, perhaps, in this instance.
Huh. Go figure...
Carrie: "While police were tight-lipped on the conditions of the migrants, Saravanamuttu said that ...that many of the boat people were less than 13 years old."
"When asked if any children were onboard unaccompanied, Johnston of the border agency said only that social workers had been called in."
Which for me - changes everything!
Lawrence: I think we have an obligation to provide help to the underprivileged in our OWN country before we reach out to those from OTHER countries.
Jamie: *clap* *clap* Well said Lawrence!
Lauren: At the end of the day, a human being is still a human being.
Erin: So we enjoy welcoming into our country H1N1 and Sars and Bird Flu and GOD knows what else because we have no control?? So no control then hey why not be compassionate and generous and help one and all!! Sorry don't buy it!! And by saying "uneducated" I was not referring to these people wanting university degrees I am asking what are they supposed to do now that they are here??? Instead of asking what our country is able to offer and give them, what are they able to offer and give our country???
Elizabeth: I think we have an obligation to BOTH. The fact that *our* underprivileged may have more than *them* does not negate THEIR need, either.
Lawrence: But why do we have an obligation to "them"? With all the money our government has spent on assistance to third world nations and the people therein or recently departed, we could have instituted a program that would provide government-funded post-secondary education for Canadians. That's just one idea.
Elizabeth: As far as my understanding of SARS and H1N1 go, they could have been - and likely were - brought to our fine nation via a commerical air flight, not a shabby ship packed full of refugees.
What are they supposed to do here? What many refugees do: the dirty shit/menial tasks/long shift/crap pay/unprotected by a union/mind-numbing/ego-destroying jobs that many, many, MANY Canadians will not.
Clearly, like our neighbours to the South, we have become a country dependent on all-night convenience stores and a cab when we whistle. We expect our fine city hotels to employ bellhops and car jockeys and concierges and lackeys for little to no pay. Somebody needs to clean to washrooms in our public and private spaces. Somebody needs to toil in our furnace-like factories for 12 hours a day, for minimum wage.
Yes, citizens born here shoulder these and much worse responsibilities, but for the most part? The ones who dreamed of a better life by coming here - they are the ones who suffer through, diligent. Accepting. GRATEFUL.
Elizabeth: Lawrence, I won't argue that post-secondary education should be paid for by our government, because I think it should be so, as well. But nor am I saying that we have wasted money in third world countries, or in helping those who've fled an...d found their way here.
Why does it need to be one OR the other? Can we not reap the benefit of living in this awesome country AND help those people - prisoners of birth, as it were - NOT lucky enough to be born here?
Why should we do this? Well, in my humble opinion, I think we should simply because we can.
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