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article imageCanadian Tamils oppose proposed 'human smuggling' bill C-49 Special

By Andrew Moran     Nov 3, 2010 in World
Toronto - The Canadian federal government has proposed bill C-49, which is a piece of legislation that labels asylum-seeking as a "smuggling incident." The Tamil community is strongly against this bill, but would the bill deter those seeking refuge?
Throughout the course of 2010, there have been many Sri Lankan Tamils seeking refuge in Australia, Canada and Thailand. Sri Lanka has been dubbed the “island of tears” because of the suffering, violence and tyranny that plagues the nation.
Despite Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announcing that federal agents have developed a “robust” intelligence network that would target southeast Asian asylum groups, the federal government has introduced bill C-49, an Act to Amend the Criminal Code, that would criminalize migrants seeking refuge in Canada.
If the legislation is passed, asylum seekers who are declared as part of the “smuggling incident” can be denied essential services and fundamental rights as refugees. However, the term smuggler is not specifically defined in the bill.
Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney
Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney
screen capture from news video
“If passed, the Federal Government will have the ability to arbitrarily jail refugee claimants, deny permanent residency status, bar refugees from reuniting with their families in Canada, and revoke refugee status after it has been granted, amongst other draconian measures,” said National Council of Canadian Tamils (NCCT) spokesperson, Krisna Saravanamuttu. “Many of the measures in Bill C-49 contravene the 1951 Refugee Convention, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.”
The NCCT is urging all members of parliament to reject the bill and further the country’s “commitment to protecting human rights.” But would the bill even deter refugees?
In an e-mail to Digital Journal, the Coalition to Stop the War in Sri Lanka (CSWSL) spokesperson, Senthan Nada, provided in-depth analysis on the bill, which he agrees with to a “certain extent.”
Nada explains that bill C-49 was introduced as a response to the nearly 500 Tamils who came to Canada by boat and grabbed the attention of news media outlets around the world. He says that the bill is an attempt to appear “tough with human smugglers,” but refugees can get help from those who can arrange escape facilities: “These are the modes available to refugees to escape from persecutions.”
“The bill also allows the government to detain any refugees who lands in Canada for up to twelve months without reviews,” said Nada. “There are no provisions made in the bill for the women or children who might come to our country seeking compassion, kindness, and protection in our country in the basis of well founded fear for their lives in their home countries. As I understand the bill also limit the refugees’ ability to appeal against the decision made by the Refugees board.”
The CSWSL spokesperson believes Canada must work with “civilized countries” in order to address Sri Lanka’s alleged war crimes and human rights violations, which were directed by the nation’s political and military leadership.
Canadian Tamils rally in front of the Sri Lankan Consulate in Toronto.
Canadian Tamils rally in front of the Sri Lankan Consulate in Toronto.
Furthermore, Sri Lanka, says Nada, persists in violating international humanitarian and human rights laws and the “perpetration of unlawful acts” against Tamil citizens, including academics, human rights activists, journalists and aid workers.
“Canada has an obligation to protect these people. It is worthwhile to note that, U.N. adopted in 2005, the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine to save these global citizens who are facing extermination and genocide from their own governments.”
So far the only political organization to officially speak out against the bill is the Green Party of Canada. Last week, the political party issued a press release where they urged MPs to reject bill C-49 “in its current form.”
“This Bill reveals a government trying to evade the basic constitutional principle of the rule of law. It must not be allowed to do so,” said party leader, Elizabeth May.
More about Tamils, Refugees, Bill c-49
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