Go home: We asked you to have your say about the latest wave of migrants to reach our shores. Your response was huge, the message was clear: Send them back immediately.

Illustration: Color Photo: Debra Brash, Times Colonist / Behind three fences, a newly arrived migrant strolls in a security zone at CFB Esquimalt.

Go home. By plane. By boat. Just go.

That’s what a record number of Times Colonist poll respondents — close to 3,500 people — said in response to Saturday’s question asking where we should send the near 300 Chinese migrants who have landed on B.C.’s coast from unmarked boats.

A total of 97 per cent — 3,362 people — responded by phone and e-mail to say they felt compassion for the Chinese boat people, but that they should be returned to their place of origin to enter Canada legally.

John Scratchley said Canada must stop being a doormat. “This is about people doing illegal acts and leap frogging all those would-be immigrants who are complying with the necessary requirements for entry into this country.”

Only 105 phone and e-mail responses suggested retaining and caring for the migrants, or sending the organizers back and keeping the rest.

Mick Mallon, visiting Victoria from Iqaluit, Nunavut, said the situation is indeed “fierce” but fears society’s response more than the cost of supporting the refugees.

“The saddest thing about this whole incident is the vicious, vindictive and racist comments that will be made by your readers,” he said.

Responses via phone and e-mail to Saturday’s TC poll started pouring in at 5:30 a.m. The poll concluded at 3 p.m.

Although this poll is not scientific, all 277 e-mail poll responses were read. Of those, 274 respondents said the migrants should be sent home.

Of the remaining three responses, one suggested compassion, one said keep the migrants and the conclusion of the third response was not understood.

Joe Dorscher, of Victoria, said the migrants brought here were also “duped. The least we can do is treat them with human dignity.”

Although their numbers were not factored in, about half of all the e-mail responses in favour of sending the migrants home were signed by either two adults — couples — or several people — including relatives, tenants, and even visitors in from as far away as Quesnel.

A record 3,191 phone responses were recorded, with 3,088 in favour of sending the migrants home and 103 suggesting a variety of alternatives ranging from a wait-and-see approach to showing more compassion and opening up Canada’s borders.

Dr. D. Liang, who came to Canada from China in 1965, said the boat people are not refugees but immigrants who should take the legal route.

“Although (they are) not `illegal’ it is my considered opinion that they should not even be allowed to land on Canadian soil. They should be returned to their point of origin with the reassurance that their application though normal channels would receive sympathetic consideration.”

MaryLou McRae, of Deep Cove, called for calm.

“I recognize we have some problems to deal with, but I’d like to put my voice in for a little more patience. Let’s not jump on a bandwagon to turn boats away.”

Rick McBride of Sidney said Canada has to stop being soft on illegal immigration. “We have our own native, elderly and poor people who are Canadian-born that need our assistance.”

Merle Bell of Victoria offered an oft-repeated sentiment: When Canada can feed, house, educate, and adequately care for all who live here, then more immigrants could be considered.

Mary Coward, of Sooke, said Ottawa must act. “Vacation or not, Parliament must be reconvened to deal with this crisis.”

Ron Kerr, of Victoria, thinks we should send Immigration Minister Elinor Caplan back with the next boatload.

“Send them home and send our immigration minister along with them. She talks about fairness, so perhaps she should think about fairness to Canadians first.”

Susan Cottier, of Brentwood Bay, said she’s beyond being upset.

“As each new boat arrives I get angrier and angrier. If they can’t apply to come here as every one else does, then to hell with them. Turn the boat around and give it a shove,” she said.

C. Spooner suggests a tax revolt.

“Send them back. If Immigration won’t do that, bill the federal government. If the feds won’t pay, every citizen of B.C. should refuse to pay their taxes next April.”

Dave Wood said the recent arrivals are not refugees, and economic hardship is not an excuse to enter Canada illegally.

“Hard decisions have to be made, otherwise what is so attractive about our country will be buried under a mass of humanity that will swamp all our resources. This can only lead to tragedy.”

Barry Dashwood, of Ladysmith, wants to be heard.

“The only way is to turn them back before they land, give them food and fuel and send them on their way. How come our government doesn’t get the message that we do not want these people here, please wake up.”

Linda and Keith Snelling were quick to the point.

“Definitely, go straight to the airport, do not pass go, do not collect $200.”