The Canadian Government and Law Offices Are Recommitted to Helping Refugees Seeking Asylum in the Country
In continuous efforts to support the crisis facing Syrian refugees, many legal offices are assisting newcomers entering Canada with the immigration process. Despite various efforts by politicians, lawyers, and civilians to support those who have experienced war and trauma by settling them in a new home, the Canadian government has not always been so supportive of migrants seeking asylum.
On May 18th, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized for what he called a “stain on Canada’s past” that occurred 102 years ago. This apology is being echoed by other party leaders while law offices and civilians do all they can to offer assistance and expertise to those that need it. The event Trudeau has apologized for involves the Japanese steamship Komagata Maru being barred from docking upon its arrival in Vancouver on May 23rd, 1914, turning away hundreds of refugees hoping to immigrate into the country.
The steamship, carrying 376 migrants, was turned away due to exclusionary Canadian legislation designed to curb immigration from India. It had been travelling from Hong Kong and carried mainly refugees from Punjab. Though the passengers were, for the most part, British subjects (from a British-occupied territory in India), the policy that denied them entry into Canada involved a regulation where immigrants had to travel by continuous passage from their country of birth or citizenship. Only those traveling by “through” tickets, purchased before leaving their country of origin, would be allowed to enter the country. The ship sat in the harbour for two months until the Canadian military escorted the Komagata Maru out of their waters on July 23rd, 1914.
Once the migrants returned to Budge-Budge, India, a riot ensued and 19 passengers were shot while many others were imprisoned. Trudeau offered sincere apologies for Canada’s indifference at the time, for the discriminatory laws, and for the government not offering an apology to those seeking Canada’s support sooner. His sentiment was echoed by other party leaders, including interim opposition leader Rona Ambrose.
Trudeau promises to recommit the country to doing better for those seeking asylum in Canada. He states that “we have learned, and will continue to learn, from the mistakes of our past,” and that those mistakes must not be repeated. This commitment is reflected in Canada’s dedication to Syrians entering the country, as well as Canada’s currently evolving policies viewing immigration as the first step towards citizenship.
Refugee and immigration lawyers are also committed to assisting those seeking asylum in Canada. Many refugee law offices offer support to newcomers on navigating legislation when trying to gain citizenship in the country. It is important to stay informed on the many changes being made by the Liberal government—changes to help students and refugees alike gain residency in the country. The government and lawyers’ combined efforts, moving forward, will hopefully reflect this newfound dedication towards refugees and keep harm from happening to migrants seeking Canada’s support in the future.