While this is an article written with a fresh Saturday morning angry zeal I want to assure you, I will hold the same sentiments long after this is posted.
Today I awoke to the morning daylight creeping through my slightly open blinds and helped myself to a fresh, juicy kiwi. Enjoying the sweetness bounce around my taste buds I sat down on the living room couch to browse the morning paper. The Anti-HST headline caught my eye, but the headline “Tamil kids locked up” caught my attention.
Immediately, I flipped through the pages and to the Westcoast News section of the Vancouver Sun and saw on one page, two articles by Douglas Quan of Postmedia News documenting the daily life of the women and children detained and voicing the questions and experience of a refugee lawyer working with the Tamils and on the other, a “Daily Special” making comparisons to Chinese “boat people” and a clever opinion piece by Stephen Hume.
After fingering through Quan’s articles, I turned to the “Daily Special” (Page A6 for those with a copy of the Sun), and I read the lead of the article: “Unlike the Chinese boat people of 1999, Sri Lankans say they will not slip across the border.” And then I raged. Here’s why:
1. Terming the Chinese immigrants of 1999 (illegal and otherwise) as “Chinese boat people” is an easy simplification of bigoted language and represents the xenophobia, racism, knee-jerk hatred and fear and ignorance that upper middle-class (here I admit my own ignorance) and portions of White Canada have in relation to poor people landing on “their” shores. Would these people be from Britain they would probably be hailed as “sailors,” but the fact is the news characterizes people landing on rusted ships to be as dirty and smelly as their ships, and as slippery as the waters they traveled, be they Chinese, Sri Lankan, or any other under-classed minority. It’s not hard to imagine a similar simplification of Sri Lankans ten years from now, let alone ten months. They’re just the flavour of the week.
2. “Will not slip across the border.” Since when does the word “slip” become a politically-neutral word for people coming to a new country for a better life? It’s not, and that’s my point. This article is filed under the “Daily Special” of a provincewide newspaper and for it to bounce around the precarious sentiments of political discrimination – that being the political scrutiny and policy that the Canadian government enacts as well as the corresponding media which seem to isolate certain kinds of people to discriminate at a time (in 1999, Chinese boat people; in 2010 Sri Lankan boat people) – is evidence of agenda, not news. Now I don’t necessarily blame the writers or the editors, but I look at the system of publishing: the system that is owned and dominated by CanWest Global.
3. It’s in the title: “These migrants want to call Canada home.” Well no shit. That’s why they got on the ship in the first place! To seek refuge away from the persecution and oppression they face in Sri Lanka to a country that will give them what they need to live a humane life. Okay, I know that we have to make sure they’re not terrorists, but let’s not forget they are asylum seekers, too. But since when did terrorists travel two months at sea to start their antics?
What exactly do they mean “these” migrants, anyway? Some more fear mongering on the part of the Vancouver Sun is at place, trying to stir instinctive, territorial backlash in “native” Canadians.
4. With an obvious bias towards xenophobia, the above article is given precedence as the Daily Special when the below article is Opinion. This doesn’t make me rage quite as much as spawn campers or aimbotters, but that something slanted can pass of as straight news is another begrudging reality of living an upper middle class life. A far cry from the realities of facing persecution so severe so as to leave my home country. This is how privilege works; I have the power and choice to tune in or not, and refuse to see the reality of the situations of the migrants.
Although these are some angry points, I want to acknowledge that The Vancouver Sun did place both the Daily Special and Hume’s opinion piece on the same page. In a newspaper, it’s easy to give voice to one side of an issue but to balance a point with a counterpoint is refreshing to see.
In closing, Hume’s article says it best:
How we respond to a few Tamils seeking safety and a future for their children says far more about us than it does about them.