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Canada Jails Refugees

Fear-mongering and the far-right

by Devon Ridge

By Devon Ridge

From Mayday Magazine


This May, The MV Sun Sea departed from Sri Lanka carrying 492 men, women, and children, giving up their sovereign identities for a dangerous and uncertain journey. After being denied permission to dock in Thailand and Australia, the Tamil refugees approached British Columbia, hoping to find asylum.

Instead of being welcomed, the boat was met by the force of armed RCMP and naval officers and unfounded accusations of terrorism. Instead of finding refuge after a three month long journey risking death, the refugees are currently experiencing the dehumanizing treatment of incarceration.

Mainstream media and government officials have taken up what seems like a moral debate about what to do with the boatload of refugees. This discussion fuels fear and confusion, distracting people from asking the most important questions. Questions like, is there really any justification for prison as a humane response to encountering people fleeing for their lives?

This is not the first time that a ship carrying refugees into Canadian waters has been met with racist hostility and accusations of terror. Last October, the arrival of a ship carrying 76 Tamil refugees was debated with the same unfounded panic and media sensationalism. Canada’s Border Service ultimately admitted there was never any evidence the men had any sort of connection with groups deemed to be terrorists.

And yet, time after time, the arrival of a boat filled with refugees ignites hysteria. Such a reaction is, in part, a product of systemic racial violence inherent in the western world. It stems from the same logic of colonialism and white supremacy that initiated the genocide of Indigenous peoples.




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