Canadians want migrants deported, poll finds
Darcy Wintonyk, ctvbc.ca
Published Thursday, August 19, 2010 1:31PM PDT
More than half of Canadians believe a ship carrying 492 Tamil migrants that landed on B.C. shores last week should have been sent back to Sri Lanka, according to a survey released Thursday by Angus Reid Public Opinion.
The study, which sampled more than 1,000 Canadians, found 63 per cent of respondents felt the ship should have been turned back before it reached Canada.
Angus Reid Public Opinion Vice President Mario Canseco told ctvbc.ca the findings revealed many people are mad about the decision to let the ship enter Canadian waters in the first place.
"People don't have a hard time believing the migrants are fleeing something -- but for all of these people to show up at the same causes anger," Canseco said.
A main source of irritation appears to be the idea the migrants aren't entering Canada through regulated immigration channels. Another 83 per cent of respondents felt the migrants are jumping the immigration queue and should be forced to apply like other foreigners who want to come to the country.
"The major questions from people are ‘why did you let the ship come in and why did you let the people skip the queue?'" Canseco said.
"The idea to let people come here without going through the regular paths isn't something that is palatable to Canadians. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth."
As of Wednesday, initial detention hearings had been completed for 110 of the Sri Lankan migrants. All were ordered to remain in detention centres in the Fraser Valley, east of Vancouver, until their identities are established by border officials.
Survey respondents were asked what should happen to the Tamil migrants if their refugee claims were found to be legitimate, and no links were made between them and any terrorist organization, including the Tamil Tigers, who are banned in Canada.
Almost half of respondents, 48 per cent, said they would still deport the ship's crew and passengers back to Sri Lanka. Only 35 per cent said they would allow them to stay in Canada as refugees.
Canseco said the high-profile way the migrants arrived may have hurt the public's perception of their refugee claims.
"The reality is, 490 people swamping the system isn't something that people like," he said.
"It's ultimately about fairness. People are looking at this as something that is unfair to people who want to come to Canada legitimately."
More on the way
An overwhelming proportion of those surveyed, 72 per cent, say that the MV Sun Sea is a "test boat" intended to gauge the response of the federal government.
The same percentage said they expect more ships carrying migrants to try and reach Canadian waters within the next few months.
Canseco says while about half of people surveyed said they would be agreeable to letting migrants stay in Canada, there's an overwhelming concern it will open a floodgate for other ships to storm our shores.
"Some people say they're not that much of a burden, we have a big country, some may have families here and there's a big Tamil community in Toronto. But the other side thinks if we keep allowing this more and more boats will show up."
Yesterday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper warned that Ottawa will not hesitate to strengthen the laws and tackle the "trend" of migrants landing in Canada.
Harper said authorities are concerned some of the migrants may be members of the Tamil Tigers.
The MV Sun Sea is the second such ship to arrive in British Columbia since a long-running civil war in Sri Lanka between the central government and Tamil rebels came to a violent end last year.
The migrants -- which include 63 women and 49 minors -- said they faced mass murder, disappearances and extortion in their home country. The UN has estimated the violence in Sri Lanka killed at least 7,000 people during the last five months of the conflict and displaced another 280,000.
Angus Reid Public Opinion claims a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 per cent.