April 23, 2005: Letting Terrorists Dictate Our Foreign Policy
Letting terrorists dictate our foreign policy
April 23, 2005
Reports that Sri Lanka's proposed new envoy to Canada has been turned down because of alleged human rights abuses suggest that Tamil terrorists and their supporters here now have a hand in dictating our foreign policy.
In 1986, shortly after I had returned from serving four years as the Canadian High Commissioner in Colombo, an almost identical situation developed when the then Sri Lankan high commissioner was accused of human rights abuses. One of the people behind the campaign to defame him made no secret of the fact that the attack was being mounted in order to resuscitate sympathy for the 155 Sri Lankan Tamils who had recently arrived in a boat off the coast of Newfoundland and were claiming refugee status in Canada.
Public sympathy for them had waned when it was revealed that, contrary to their claims that they had fled here directly from Sri Lanka to escape persecution, they had in fact been living safely in Germany for several years. Under international rules, they were already living in a safe country and had no right to claim refugee status in another simply because it might offer more generous benefits.
In the event, the lobbying efforts were successful to the extent not only of gaining acceptance for the refugee claimants who should have remained in Germany, but in dramatically raising the approval rate for all Sri Lankan Tamils claiming refugee status in Canada.
Where the campaign did not succeed was in convincing the Canadian government that the Sri Lankan high commissioner was guilty of human rights abuses. Ottawa knew the charges against him were unfounded and had the intestinal fortitude to ignore them.
Now, regrettably, so many sympathizers of the Tamil Tigers have been able to enter Canada through a broken refugee determination system and throw their support behind a government that will bow to their wishes, that Ottawa no longer has the guts to face down terrorist supporters and do the right thing.
Martin Collacott is a former High Commissioner to Sri Lanka and Ambassador to Syria, Lebanon and Cambodia. He lives in Vancouver.
National Post 2005