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No One Is Illegal

The No One is Illegal campaign is in full confrontation with Canadian colonial border policies, denouncing and taking action to combat racial profiling of immigrants and refugees, detention and deportation policies, and wage-slave conditions of migrant workers and non-status people.

We struggle for the right for our communities to maintain their livelihoods and resist war, occupation and displacement, while building alliances and supporting indigenous sisters and brothers also fighting theft of land and displacement.

contact NOII-Van:
email: noii-van@resist.ca
tel: 604-682-3269 +7149




Don't Ask Don't Tell Campaign


A 'Don't Ask' policy for Toronto would mean that no person, regardless of their immigration status, would have to fear being reported to the Immigration authorities and deported for accessing basic serives for themselves and their families - which is the case in Toronto today.


As it stands, families are often unable to register their kids for school, apply for subsidized housing, call the police in an emergency situation, or even visit a doctor - for fear that their information will be passed on to Immigration Canada's enforcement arm.


The current situation makes it extremely difficult for families to settle and integrate and vastly contributes to making immigrant and refugee communities prone to increased levels of homelessness, unemployment, and poverty.


Large American cities, including New York, have already legislated such a municipal policy. In an important step towards equal treatment for all people living in Toronto, the city government must be forced to act on implementing this.


Proposed DADT policy


... don't ask: city workers and application should not require information regarding immigration status


... don't tell: city employees would be barred from sharing the immigration status of those accessing city services with federal and provincial enforcement agencies


... an affirmation that city services be accessible to all city residents, regardless of immigration status


... municipal funds, resources, and workers would not be used to enforce federal or provincial immigration laws


To find out what work is being done in Toronto: http://www.dadttoronto.org/



Don’t Ask Don’t Tell: A local campaign in defence of people without status in Toronto
- From the New Socialist Magazine

The fear of detention and deportation is preventing Toronto residents without immigration status from accessing essential city services such as housing, food banks, education, health care and emergency services. “Illegals”, people without status, lead a marginalized underground existence which leaves them susceptible to exploitation and oppression.

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) is the slogan of a recent campaign to change Toronto municipal policy so that people without immigration status can access city services without fear of detention and deportation. No One Is Illegal-Toronto, one of the groups involved in the campaign, describes the DADT policy as one in which “city programs would not require immigration status-related information, and city workers would be prohibited from inquiring into or sharing immigration information with citizenship and Immigration Canada or other government agencies or authorities.”

A DADT policy would improve the security and quality of life of thousands of people. It would also make a strong political statement in support of migrant workers in the current social and political climate of fear mongering and anti-immigrant backlash.

The DADT policy in Toronto would have two main components:

1. A “Don’t Ask” component: Application forms for city services and city workers themselves would be forbidden from inquiring into the immigration status of individuals. Therefore, access to city services would not be dependent on immigration status.

2. A “Don’t Tell” component: Should city workers discover the immigration status of persons accessing services they would be prohibited from sharing this information with Citizenship and Immigration Canada (a department of the federal government). Consequently, municipal funds, resources and workers would not be used to enforce federal immigration laws.

Born In The USA

Variations of the policies similar to the one being proposed in Toronto have been adopted in 28 cities in the United States. For some cities the impetus for adopting the policy has been budgetary. By prohibiting city employees from participating in the investigation, arrest, or deportation of individuals accused of immigration violations, A DADT policy inherently resists the downloading of costs associated with enforcing immigration laws. Other cities have adopted DADT policies for progressive political reasons. Cambridge, Massachusetts, for example, first implemented a DADT policy in 1985, in response to Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) roundups of illegal immigrants escaping political persecution in Latin America. Last year, Cambridge city council reaffirmed its DADT policy in response to the Bush administration’s Patriot Act, which called for city officials to share with the Federal government information about individuals including their immigration status.

These Are The People in Your Neighborhood

There is no official count of people living illegally in Canada nor is there a way to verify their numbers. Estimates vary but the number most often cited in studies is 200 000. Many of these people have overstayed their visas. Others have had their refugee/humanitarian and compassionate claims turned down. According to the 2003 Auditor General’s report on
Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s control and enforcement, “The gap between removal orders issued and confirmed removals has grown by about 36,000 in the past six years” (http://www.oag-bvg.gc.ca/domino/reports.nsf/html/20030405ce.html). This number is projected to grow despite tightened immigration laws and borders. (These statistics do not include individuals who have voluntarily left Canada without reporting, those who are appealing their removal, and illegal entries that are not on immigration Canada’s radar.)

The vast majority of illegals in Canada live in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver with Toronto being home to the largest number. Illegals are drawn to large cities like Toronto because the employment opportunities are greater in large cities. They are able to remain relatively invisible among diverse populations, and their settlement may be facilitated by the existence of common cultural and language communities. There are intricate well-developed networks through which illegals are able to obtain work and housing. It is not uncommon for illegals to reside in Canada for years establishing families with children born in Canada: legal children with illegal parents. (Children born in Canada of illegal parents receive Canadian citizenship.)

Good Enough To Work, Good Enough To Stay

Illegal workers make a significant contribution to the Canadian economy. Jim Murphy of the Greater Toronto Home Builders Association put it bluntly, "If we didn't have them, we wouldn't be able to build houses" (November 13, 2003, Canadian Press). In any given day most Canadians have used a commodity that at one point involved illegal labour. Be it the clothes they wear, the spaces where they live and shop, the food they eat, or the manufactured goods they use. Illegals work “underground” in a variety of jobs including restaurant work, construction, child care, sex trade work, farming, manufacturing, day labour and cleaning. In 2001, the Ontario Construction Secretariat estimated that the underground economy cost the province about $1.3-billion a year in unpaid income taxes and that underground construction workers accounted for about one-quarter of that industry (about 76,400 workers) (November 15, 2003, The Globe and Mail). Though they do not pay income taxes, illegal workers pay sales taxes on the goods and services they use directly contributing millions of dollars to the governments coffers.

Blame the System Not the Victim

Illegal workers are a fact of life in advanced capitalist countries. Illegals do not come to Canada for the lovely weather. They are sometimes displaced from their country of birth through political repression and war and environmental degradation. The majority, however, come to Canada to escape the harsh economic realities of their home countries. Working people have a clear choice in life: find work or starve. If they can, people go to where the money is, with or without the proper papers. The scale and scope of migration today is unprecedented in human history. The International Labour Office estimated that the number of international migrants (people who crossed borders to reside and work) was 85 million in 1996 (International Labour Office, International Migration and Migrant Workers. Committee on Employment and Social Policy, 265th Session, Geneva, March 1996). A World Bank working paper (based on United Nations census data from the 1980s) reports that the number of people that are living outside their country of birth is well over 100 million (http://www.worldbank.org/html/extdr/hnp/hddflash/workp/wp_00054.html). The majority of these people are economic migrants. Both these organizations note that their numbers underestimate the number of illegal migrants crossing borders.

Despite well-publicized, regular crackdowns on illegals, the Canadian state has neither the
wherewithal nor the inclination to fully remove illegals nor to stop their entry into Canada. The state lacks the wherewithal because a program to completely eradicate illegals would be too costly. The state lacks the inclination because, as noted previously, illegal workers are an important component of the economy. Mainstream economists have stated that “the economically optimal level of illegal migration is almost certainly greater than zero. The possible fiscal and political costs generated by illegal labour need to be weighed against the economic benefits of cheap and often complementary labour, as well as the often high costs of border controls and internal checks” (http://www.ilo.org/public/english/bureau/inst/download/boswell.pdf).

Illegal workers are a “flexible” workforce. That is, they are highly exploitable, willing to work for little pay, with no job security, no benefits and in unsafe conditions. Their precarious status and the fear of deportation make it difficult for them to collectively organize. Illegal workers are the ultimate surplus army of labour; their illegal status ensures that capitalists are able to maximize their profits by keeping their expenses down.

The Enemy Within vs. Working Class Solidarity

Migrants, especially those without status, serve as a scapegoat for social problems, an enemy within which can be blamed for society’s ills such as crime, terrorism, unemployment and a crumbling social safety net. Politicians and the capitalist class they represent are able to deflect criticisms of the system onto a marginalized and largely voiceless segment of the population while a divided working class is played off against itself and weakened. The ability of capitalists to squeeze the labour of illegals, by driving down wages and working conditions, increases their ability to squeeze the labour of all workers. Illegals and their struggles are part and parcel of the struggles of the working class as a whole and their defence is a defence of the class as a whole.

Many organizations have joined the DADT campaign in Toronto. Endorsers include women’s shelters, community centres, trade unions, anti-poverty groups, social service agencies, immigrant and refugee organizations, and anti-racist activists. Key to moving this initiative forward is the support and backing of city workers as they are the ones whose work this policy would effect. Efforts have been made to have their active involvement and input. The time is right for the implementation of such a policy in Toronto. The Federal government has recently announced that it is going to be working more closely with municipalities like Toronto on issues of immigration. It is imperative that this work does not include inquiring into or sharing immigration information with Citizenship and Immigration Canada or other government agencies or authorities. The DADT campaign is but one component of a larger anti-racist movement that is coalescing in Canada and is also part of a larger campaign to grant amnesty and citizenship to all undocumented workers in the Canadian state.

Press Release: Support Wendy Maxwell

Fear deportation of highly valued community member

wendy maxwell

Press Conference:
March 11th, 2005
25 St. Clair Ave East, Toronto
10:30 am

Speakers include:

June Callwood, Award-winning writer/journalist and founder of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association
Olivia Chow, Toronto City Councillor, Trinity-Spadina
Andrea Gunraj, METRAC (Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women)
Verlia Stevens, Assaulted Women's Helpline
Nadine Sookermany, Board Co-Chair, Nellie's
Carolyn Egan, President, United Steelworkers Toronto Area Council
Professor Judy Rebick, Gindin Chair in Social Justice and Democracy, Ryerson University

A delegation of community leaders will speak at the Ontario Regional offices of Citizenship and Immigration Canada tomorrow, in opposition to the imminent deportation of community activist and artist Wendy Maxwell Edwards. A request to meet with Irene Bader, Director of Ontario Regional, in order to call for a positive decision on Ms. Edward's Humanitarian and Compassionate Application, has gone unanswered.

Ms. Maxwell, a failed refugee claimant from Costa Rica, is currently being held in Vanier Centre for Women and faces deportation this coming Monday although her application to remain in Canada on Humanitarian grounds has yet to be adjudicated by Immigration Canada.

An extraordinary groundswell of support for Ms. Edwards has emerged in the days following her arrest at an International Woman's Day event in Toronto. Over 1,000 individuals and organizations have signed a petition in support of Ms. Edwards, and the Immigration Minister's office has been flooded with calls.  A support rally has been scheduled for 12 noon on Friday at Vancouver's Immigration Canada offices, and a solidarity hunger
strike is underway at Ryerson University.

Ms. Edwards has made impressive contributions during her 7 years in Canada, including extensive work with organizations supporting women survivors of abuse and HIV/AIDS prevention work.

According to Professor Audrey Maclin, who specializes in Immigration and Refugee Law at the University of Toronto, "Wendy Maxwell has demonstrably shown that she has established herself in Canada and made wide-ranging
positive contributions through her community work.  She is precisely the kind of person who should be granted permanent resident's status under Humanitarian and Compassionate discretion."

For more information:
Contact the Wendy Maxwell Support Committee, via (647) 891-7691


January 13, 2005




After spending Monday night in nightmarish suspense, Mohamed, his wife Shamis, and their four sons received word at 11 am yesterday morning that he could stop packing his bags, and did not have to be at the Toronto International airport for pre-deportation processing at 1:30pm.

Justice John O’Keefe ruled in favour of a stay of deportation, resulting in a temporary reprieve for Mohamed and his family, in their lengthy struggle to win his landed status in Canada.

The ruling came after Monday’s last stage court appearance, during which a courtroom packed with family, community members, supporters and press heard Mohamed's lawyer, Amina Sherazee, argue that the conclusion of Immigration Canada’s pre-removal assesment stating that Mohamed would face no risk upon return to Somalia was flawed.  Sherazee said that Mohamed’s political activity and lack of belief in and ties to the clans which rule the country would place him at serious risk.  She also argued that Mohamed’s deportation would cause irreparable harm to him, his wife and four sons aged nine to 24, all of whom are Canadian citizens.

True to form, Alison Engel, counsel for Immigration Canada, denied that Mr. Mohamed's family would be hurt by his deportation, saying ”Family separation is part of the normal consequences of deportation. Simply being separated from his family while his applications are being processed does not constitute irreparable harm."  She also argued that many refugees have been returned without problems to northwestern Somalia.

Engel also attempted to highlight Mohamed's two minor criminal convictions, in keeping with Immigration Canada's system of ‘double punishment’ suffered by non-status migrants, where a criminal conviction results not just in punishment as set out in the Criminal Code, but also a second punishment by way of removal.

Also during the court proceedings, it was made known by Immigration counsel for the first time that Immigration Canada had in fact already approved ‘in principle ‘ Mohamed’s 1991 claim to remain in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds – this is the first stage of winning landed status for people who apply from within Canada and it is generally not the practice of the government to deport anyone who has attained this approval.  However, the claim was deemed to have been abandoned in 2000 because authorities say they had not heard from him. Mohamed claims he has never been notified of this decision.

It is striking that while this victory has provided some relief to Mohamed and his family, delaying deportation until a decision is made on his federal court Applications, the fact that Mohamed was able to retain a lawyer and appear in Federal Court on his case, that the opportunity to argue in this court at the eleventh hour, that Mohamed has been able to persevere in navigating the arduous and discriminatory Immigration system speaks to the incredible lengths to which people must go, and which many are simply unable to do, in the fight for status.  It speaks to the inherently flawed and inaccessible nature of the Canadian Immigration system, one which lacks an appeal division for refugees, where 95% of refugees are unable to obtain a positive PRRA decision, and where refugees can be deported before a decision on a pending Humanitarian and Compassionate claim has even been made.

This is by no means the end of Mohamed’s fight.  While the Federal Court judge’s decision is significant in its finding that Mohamed would in fact face irreperable harm if deported to Somalia, it does not mean that he has been granted protection by the Canadian government. So, he must now endure another grueling wait for a decision on the PreRemoval Risk Assessment from yet another official in the endless maze that is Canada’s immigration system.

Thank you to all who wrote letters, called Immigration Canada, and packed the courtroom. OCAP's involvement in pressuring both the officer and the Minister was present in the government's disclosure filed in court. While we know that the outcome of Mohamed’s case is crucial first and foremost to his family and himself,  the call for justice for Yakub Mohamed is also a call for all people caught in the backlogged bureaucracy of Immigration Canada, which sees people deported before their claims for landing are resolved, and a call to see that involvement with the criminal justice system in Canada must not exclude people from becoming a permanent resident or remaining in Canada.


Mohamed's deportation has been stayed temporarily.  In order to support the struggle to see Mohamed and his family get the justice and respect they deserve, please take the time to pressure the Minister of Immigration to ensure Mohamed is granted landed status on humanitarian and compassionate grounds immmediately.  This process normally takes years, and Mohamed has already been approved by the Ministry on these grounds long ago.


Judy Sgro, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Canada:

In Toronto,(416) 744-1882 (tel)
           (416) 952-1696 (fax)
In Ottawa, (613) 992-7744 (tel)
           (613) 947-8319 (fax)


1.  that Immigration Canada acknowledge their own decision to approve Mohamed for landing in principle made years ago, and grant him landed status on Humanitarian and Compassionate Grounds immediately.

2.  that Immigration Canada end the ‘double punishment’ suffered by non-status migrants, where a criminal conviction results not just in punishment as set out in the Criminal Code, but also a second punishment by way of removal. Involvement with the criminal justice system in Canada must not exclude any persons from becoming a permanent resident or remaining in Canada.

3.  regularization of status for all non-status refugees in Canada.



Latest articles on Mohamed's case:

TORONTO STAR: Man wins reprieve in bid to stay here: Judge defers removal order.  Somali now faces risk assessment.

CTV CANADA: Judge stays deportation of Somali man