Gathering marks 10 years since nearly 500 asylum-seekers landed off Victoria shore

Bynthavy Gunarobinson, daughter of Kunarobinson Christhurajah – an asylum seeker who was jailed for more than seven years after the MV Sun Sea landed in Canada – speaks to the crowd at an event to mark the anniversary of the ship’s arrival. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
Tamil migrants arrived in B.C. aboard the MV Sun Sea in August 2010. (Handout file photo)
Kunarobinson Christhurajah – an asylum seeker who was jailed for more than seven years after the MV Sun Sea landed in Canada – stands with his family at the 10th anniversary of the ship’s landing in Canada. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)

It was 10 years ago that a ship carrying 492 Tamil asylum-seekers were detained and labeled as terrorists, illegals or a threat to society.

A small gathering to mark the anniversary took place outside the legislature on Thursday.

The 380 men, 63 women and 49 children fled violence, war crimes and genocide perpetrated against them by the Sri Lankan government aboard the MV Sun Sea. The ship was intercepted off the coast of Victoria by the Canadian navy on Aug. 13, 2010, after leaving Thailand six weeks earlier. A 37-year-old man died on the voyage before reaching the west coast.

A pregnant woman was among the first of the migrants to be ordered released from detention on the ship in September 2010. It took another seven months before the last of the 63 women were ordered to be released from detention, while another 44 men were still aboard the ship.

RELATED: Four-year sentence for man who smuggled Tamil migrants to Canada aboard MV Sun Sea

In September 2017, Kunarobinson Christhurajah – one of the asylum seekers aboard the MV Sun Sea – was given a four-year prison sentence but walked free after spending seven years behind bars awaiting trial.

Christurajah’s nine-year-old daughter Bynthavy spoke to the crowd during Thursday’s event. Born in Vancouver in 2011, Bynthavy only got to see her father “from behind a glass door a few times.” While attending school, she began to wonder where he was and concluded he worked for the courts as that was the only place she was able to see him without glass in between them.

“I was six years old when my father was released and granted the opportunity for the first time to hug, kiss and carry me,” she said. “That day changed my life and now I live happily with my father, mother and sister like others.”

Many of the other asylum seekers on board were also subject to intense interrogation and many were systematically prevented from making refugee claims, or those who were deemed eligible had their claims backlogged indefinitely, said Gary Anandasangaree, MP for Scarborough-Rouge Park, in a statement.

RELATED: A timeline of events around the MV Sun Sea

Ten years later, Canada has become home to those who arrived on the MV Sun Sea.

According to the statement, while some continue to be impacted by the measures taken against them a decade ago, many others have been able to become protected persons and citizens of Canada.

– With files from the Canadian Press


 

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