March 28, 2011

Refugees are not criminals: NCCT demands removal of Conservative Party ad and apology


For Immediate Release
Monday 28 March 2011

Toronto, Canada - The National Council of Canadian Tamils (NCCT) is calling on
Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada to remove an election advertisement, which insinuates that Tamil refugees who are forced to arrive through unconventional means are “criminals”, and apologize to Tamil Canadians.

The Conservative Party ad features a photo of the MV Sun Sea which arrived off the shores of British Colombia in August last year with 491 Tamil refugees fleeing war and persecution from Sri Lanka—a country marred by allegations of human rights violations, the denial of fundamental civil liberties, and extrajudicial killings. It calls the Tamils aboard “criminals” who trying to abuse Canadian generosity.

“This election ad is xenophobic and borders on racism,” said Krisna Saravanamuttu, NCCT spokesman. “It is reminiscent of the political rhetoric used to turn back Sikhs and Hindus on board the Kamagata Maru in 1914, and Jewish refugees on board the MS St. Louis fleeing persecution in 1939. In these cases, refugees fleeing persecution were labeled “criminals” and vilified by politicians appealing to the worst instincts of Canadians to score political points and votes.”

“We are confident that Prime Minister Harper would not have approved this ad, if he had seen it,” said Saravanamuttu. “We urge the Prime Minister to review the ad and do the right thing by removing it from his party’s campaign and apologize for labeling refugees and immigrants as criminals.”

The NCCT also calls on the leaders of Canada’s major political parties, Conservative candidates, and human rights groups like the Canadian Jewish Congress, Bnai Brith, and Amnesty International to review the CPC ad and join with us in calling for its retraction. “This election should be about uniting Canadians, no matter our ethnicity and how we arrived in Canada,” noted Saravanamuttu.

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