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)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)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)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


 

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
kendra.crighton@blackpress.ca. Follow us on Instagram.  
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

asylum refugeesCity of Victoria

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A Sooke woman is speaking up after she was almost tricked by a lottery scam, claiming she had won $950,000 with Set for Life Lottery. (File Photo)
‘I wanted it to be true so badly’: Sooke woman almost falls for lottery scam

88-year-old received letter stating she had won $950,000

A female prisoner sent Langford police officers a thank-you card after she spent days in their custody. (Twitter/West Shore RCMP)
Woman gives Victoria-area jail 4.5-star review in handwritten card to police after arrest

‘We don’t often get thank you cards from people who stay with us, but this was sure nice to see’: RCMP

The Starbucks in Langford’s Westshore Town Centre is one of almost 300 storefronts that the U.S. coffee giant will be shutting across Canada by the end of March. (Google Maps)
Langford’s Westshore Town Centre Starbucks to close permanently

Popular coffee chain to close 300 storefronts across Canada by end of March

Staff and volunteers at the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea were disappointed by the theft of an educational porpoise skull likely taken on Jan. 8. (Courtesy of Tina Kelly)
Well-loved porpoise skull stolen from Sidney aquarium

Skull had been used for youth and visitor education and outreach for years

Sidney Pier was one of two sites in Sidney as the Netflix series Maid shot in Sidney in late 2020. The show starring Margaret Qualley was one of 38 productions shooting in Greater Victoria. (Bob Orchard/Submitted)
Head of Greater Victoria film commission warns of lost economic opportunity

Kathleen Gilbert said without full funding, region will not be able to attract productions

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 vaccine rollout for delivery slowdown

Daily cases decline over weekend, 31 more deaths

An elk got his antlers caught up in a zip line in Youbou over the weekend. (Conservation Officer Service Photo)
Elk rescued from zip line in Youbou on Vancouver Island

Officials urge people to manage items on their property that can hurt animals

A Trail man has a lucky tin for a keepsake after it saved him from a stabbing last week. File photo
Small tin in Kootenay man’s jacket pocket saved him from stabbing: RCMP

The man was uninjured thanks to a tin in his jacket

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Chantel Moore, 26, was fatally shot by a police officer during a wellness check in the early morning of June 4, 2020, in Edmundston, N.B. (Facebook)
Frustrated family denied access to B.C. Indigenous woman’s police shooting report

Independent investigation into B.C. woman’s fatal shooting in New Brunswick filed to Crown

Delta Police Constable Jason Martens and Dezi, a nine-year-old German Shepherd that recently retired after 10 years with Delta Police. (Photo submitted)
Dezi, a Delta police dog, retires on a high note after decade of service

Nine-year-old German Shepherd now fights over toys instead of chasing down bad guys

Nurses collect samples from a patient in a COVID suspect room in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver, Tuesday, April 21, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
5 British Columbians under 20 years old battled COVID-19 in ICU in recent weeks

Overall hospitalizations have fallen but young people battling the virus in hospital has increased

Canada released proposed regulations Jan. 2 for the fisheries minister to maintain Canada’s major fish stocks at sustainable levels and recover those at risk. (File photo)
New laws would cement DFO accountability to depleted fish stocks

Three B.C. salmon stocks first in line for priority attention under proposed regulations

Trees destroyed a Shoreacres home during a wind storm Jan. 13, 2021. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay woman flees just before tree crushes house

Pamala DeRosa is thankful to be alive

Most Read