by Gladys Terichow
WINNIPEG, Man. – It is extremely regrettable that the Tamil refugee claimants who arrived in Canada in early August by boat arrived under such a cloud of suspicion, says a Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) spokesperson.
“It is not a crime to seek asylum and no one is ineligible until their refugee claim has been assessed and denied,” said Ed Wiebe, MCC Canada’s refugee assistance coordinator.
Canadian and international refugee laws recognize that people fleeing persecution will arrive in other countries by plane, foot or boat.
The 490 Tamil refugee claimants that arrived in Canada in early August by boat are in compliance of these laws, said Wiebe.
Canada’s refugee laws, he said, are designed to examine each claim on an individual basis and address issues of criminality and security.
In keeping with Canada’s humanitarian tradition and international obligations, Canada provides protection to over 15,000 asylum seekers a year.
“A boat load of 500 refugee claimants does not overwhelm the system,” said Wiebe. “Our Canadian system is adequate to deal fairly with these claims.”
Just a month before the Tamil refugee claimants arrived on Canadian shores, the Canadian government made significant amendments to the legislation that governs the refugee claim process in Canada.
MCC Canada presented a brief to the parliamentary hearings where the amendments to the legislation were discussed.
“Canada had a good system but we (Canada) made a good system even better,” said Wiebe.
Gladys Terichow is a writer for MCC Canada