Deathscapes

The Australian Solution: A model for necropolitics at the border 7e - MV Sun Sea

Deathscapes

Canada’s response to the MV Sun Sea

[imagecaption] Graphic: Ryan and Shiela for No One Is Illegal (NOII) Vancouver. [/imagecaption]

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Despite Canada’s reputation for being relatively generous in their response to refugees, when it comes to those who arrived undocumented or without authorisation, political and legislative responses run parallel to those in Australia. Just months after the formal end of the civil war in Sri Lanka, 76 Tamil refugees were intercepted off the coast of Vancouver in October 2009 on board the Ocean Lady. Less than a year later in August 2010, the MV Sun Sea followed, carrying 492 Tamil refugees. Then conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the mainstream media, described the arrival of the boats as a ‘security concern’ and characterised the asylum seekers as ‘terrorists’ and ‘criminals’.

The arrival of these boats was the catalyst for the introduction of the Refugee Protection Act Bill C-31 (2012) (which followed the unsuccessful introduction of the Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada’s Immigration System Act Bill C-49 in 2010 and subsequent Bill C-4) which included the Designated Foreign National Regime (DFN). This legislation was modelled on Australian immigration law and mandated the detention of asylum seekers who arrived in Canada in an ‘irregular’ way; clearly targeting people seeking asylum by boat. People with DFN status are also barred from applying for permanent residency for 5 years from the date of designation, which effectively prohibits family reunion.

As some commentators have pointed out, even the name Bill C-31 has a racist legacy in Canada’s history. The Bill C-31 of 1985 was an amendment to the Indian Act which although broadened the criteria for Indigenous status, continued to discriminate against Indigenous women.


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