Sunrise sunset: on the passage of time

sunrise sunset

BY KEVIN TJIA, LAW II

Walking alone on the Bund in Shanghai in the early evening is the time when I feel most melancholic and reflective. It’s got something to do with how brightly the neon from the office towers across the river shimmers and plays across the black water. I have been a foreigner in a foreign land—I drape myself over railings gloomily and munch on cold meat buns, waiting for the late-night greasy spoons and clubs to come sputtering back to life. I think about the friends I’ve loved who’ve gone already. Overhead the sky begins to burn.

I like sunrise and I like sunset. They both stand for the passage of time. That’s why so many of us still wear timepieces while carrying iPhones and Galaxy Ss. It’s important to live within time. There are 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day, and 365 days in a year. We might live forever. We might not. I feel the weight of time pressing down on me.

What do we do with the time we have on this earth? Do we chase power? Chase love? Chase truth? Chase beauty? Chase life? Chase death? There’s a Psalm that goes Remember how fleeting is my life. / For what futility you have created all humanity! Who can live and not see death, / or who can escape the power of the grave?

The Supreme Court of Canada recently handed down a decision called Ezokola v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration) 2013 SCC 40, in which it created a new test for determining whether a refugee claimant is complicit in his or her government’s war crimes. Briefly, Mr. Ezokola was a government employee for the Democratic Republic of Congo while the DRC committed awful, awful atrocities against humanity. The question was whether or not Mr. Ezokola was excluded from attaining refugee status in Canada because of Article 1F(a) of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, which explicitly denies refugee status to individuals who are guilty of committing war crimes.

What was key to the Court’s decision was that the Canadian approach to 1F(a) up to this time had failed to distinguish between voluntary crime and guilt by association. In Mr. Ezokola’s case, he was merely a pawn caught up in a corrupt, antidemocratic, and horrifically violent government helmed by President Kabila. The moment Mr. Ezokola became aware of the depth of the atrocities being committed by his leaders, he resigned, knowing that the DRC would treat this act as treason. Since then, Mr. Ezokola and his loved ones have been hounded across the world by the DRC’s intelligence thugs. It was on this basis that Mr. Ezokola sought refugee protection in Canada. Don’t worry—we’re going to give him and his family a serious shot at a new start. His appeal was allowed by the SCC and remitted to the Refugee Protection Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board. It was time for Mr. Ezokola and his family to go, and he was smart enough to cut his losses.

I wish you all the best Mr. Ezokola.

Some people let the angel of death who hovers overhead motivate them to new heights. Some people go to her willingly. Some people ignore her. Some people commit war crimes. Some people flee from war mongers. I think death is as beautiful as she is horrible. She stands for the end of something. And she gives me the courage to live the life that suits me best. If all things are but a momentary diversion on the road to the grave, then let those diversions be the ones I choose.

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