The Current

Sri Lankan refugee recalls a less welcoming Canada in 2009

Ilamaran Nagarasa arrived in Canada seven years ago. He is overjoyed to see Syrians welcomed into Canada, but says he recalls a different arrival and can't forget the poor treatment he and other Sri Lankan refugees continue to receive. Ilamaran Nagarasa shares his story.
Nearly 600 Sri Lankans fled their country and sailed to Canada on cargo ships, The Ocean Lady and the MS Sun Sea, in 2009 and 2010. (The Canadian Press/Jonathan Hayward)
"Nobody knows how many of us are wandering around with tears in our eyes … many times crying silently inside subway washrooms, thinking about what the future holds for us in Canada."- Refugee Ilamaran Nagarasa, CBC News, in 2014

More than six-thousand Syrian refugees have arrived Canada in the past few weeks. And thousands more are being processed in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, in the hopes of coming to this country soon. 

The Canadian government and private sponsors are hard at work.... getting ready to welcome these refugees with open arms.

But that certainly wasn't the welcome some past refugees to Canada have received. 

Nearly six hundred Sri Lankans fled their country and sailed to Canada on two rusty cargo ships, The Ocean Lady and the MS Sun Sea, in 2009 and 2010, respectively. 

Upon their arrival on the shores of British Columbia, they were arrested and jailed.

Ilamaran Nagarasa came to Canada on the MV Ocean Lady.  His wife and daughter have not been able to join him here in Canada and are living in India. Ilamaran Nagarasa joined Connie Walker in our Toronto studio.

This segment was produced by The Current's Marc Apollonio.

Here is Ilamaran Nagarasa's poem, "I am a Refugee"

I am a refugee.

Should I say this with pride


Should I whine,

rubbing the wounds of my heart?


I am the witness

for the denial of human rights,

for the atrocities against humanity in Sri Lanka.

I was given the title 'refugee'

for seeking justice from 

the conscience of the world.

Ah! Six years I have lived on Canadian soil.

How many struggles I endure

to live on this soil

that protects humanity.

How much suffering 

for escaping from the murderous barbarity 

of the Sinhalese.

My soul weeps

Battling, battling

with the unsympathetic laws.


a small child is

crying for father's love

for six years,

a wife,

in the grief of separation.

Carrying these agonies

inside me,

I am  a walking dead.

I am a refugee.