He was accused of owning the MV Sun Sea migrant ship that reached Canada. Ten years later, he’s speaking publicly for the first time
|Toronto Star 13 Aug 2020 at 20:09|
VICTORIA—For someone who was accused of being part of a network that smuggled hundreds of Sri Lankan asylum seekers to Canada, spent more than six years in immigration detention and went through two trials, Kunarobinson Christhurajah is remarkably chill.
If he’s seething underneath, he’s doing a good job of hiding it.
He is on a B.C. ferry bound for the capital, Victoria, with his wife, Patrishiya, and their two daughters, Bynthavy, 9, and Migalavy, nine months.
They’re headed for a reunion with a few dozen other passengers of the MV Sun Sea, the rickety cargo ship that brought 492 Tamil migrants to B.C.’s shores in August 2010, a high-profile “mass arrival” event that sparked security concerns from the Conservative government of the day and debates about Canada’s generosity.
Christhurajah, 40, was among a handful of Tamils singled out by authorities — accused of being not just a passenger, but one of the masterminds behind a profit-driven, people-smuggling enterprise and owner of the vessel. His defence lawyer argued he was acting on humanitarian grounds, something Christhurajah maintains to this day.
During an hour-long conversation with the Star in the ferry’s cafeteria, the first time he has spoken publicly about the case, it is difficult to get a read on how he really feels. With a baby carrier still strapped around his shoulders and chest, he appears relaxed and answers questions in a forthright manner. He repeatedly flashes smiles of contentment and says on more than one occasion that “Canada is the best country.”
At the same time, he recalls moments of anger and frustration with a system that put him behind bars for years, prevented him from seeing the birth of his first child, and has kept his immigration status in limbo.
A hint of emotion wells up in his eyes when he recalls being in detention and asking himself: Why did I come here? Why was I born?
Resilience is something he had to build up at an early age.
“I was born in war,” he says.
There simply isn’t enough time during the ferry ride to go into detail about what he had to endure growing up in the midst of a violent civil war between the Sri Lankan government and the insurgent Tamil Tigers who wanted to create an independent Tamil state.