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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

 
 

NOII opposes Minutemen project

Press Release
September 18, 2005

The immigrant and refugee rights group No One is Illegal Vancouver is gravely concerned at the prospect of armed vigilantes, the so-called Minutemen, conducting patrols at the U.S./Canada border, and organizing practices and patrols as early as October at the Washington/BC border.

Refugees are already vulnerable to various forms of abuse by governments, border services, law enforcement agencies and unscrupulous employers," states Amal Rana, an organizer with No One is Illegal (NOII).  That they have to now deal with armed vigilantes on their way to Canada is a major concern of ours, to say the least."

No One is Illegal has concerns that anyone coming into contact with these armed vigilantes is in danger. Enforcement agencies on both sides of the border have stated that they have safety concerns, so certainly any migrant would also be at increased risk. Given that the Minutemen assume a need to arm themselves, and that they will be combatting terrorist activity on the Canadian border, it seems only a matter of time before someone here is harmed by them.

Harsha Walia, another organizer with NOII, said that while stopping the Minutemen on the U.S. side of the border would be a task for activists in the U.S., the Vancouver-based group will be looking at strategies to disrupt and harass similar activities taking place on the Canadian side of the border. "We are in solidarity and currently building networks with those in the US who have challenged the Minutemen project and are equally concerned with human rights, civil liberties and migrant rights."

Walia further added "Our goal is to use a variety of tactics to stop the Minutemen and other right wing vigilantes in their tracks. At a broader level, we must create a climate where it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for such racist groups and ideologies to operate."

SUPREME COURT OF CANADA TO HEAR CONSTITUTIONAL CHALLENGE TO SECURITY CERTIFICATE PROCESS

August 25th, 2005, VANCOUVER –  Canada's top court announced today that they will consider the constitutionality of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act 's security certificate process, under which non-citizens can be detained indefinitely without charge under secret evidence. The announcement comes after a five-month wait.

 

Currently in Canada, five men are being held on "Security Certificates," a measure of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act that has been described by Amnesty International as "fundamentally flawed and unfair". Security certificates and secret evidence reverse the fundamental rule of innocent until proven guilty. The men can be held for years without charge and neither the detainee nor his lawyer are informed of the precise allegations. The men can be deported, even if their lives are threatened. Most recently, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and United Nations Committee against Torture have both questioned Canada's use of the procedure.

 

"I am claiming no more than my right as a human being to a fair trial, to life, liberty and security of the person, to equality as well as to freedom from arbitrary detention, and from cruel and unusual punishment," said Adil Charkaoui, who is bringing the challenge forward as one of the men arrested under a security certificate on 21 May 2003.

 

The challenge has the support of an intervenors' group, including the Canadian Arab Federation, Canadian Council for Refugees, International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, Minority Advocacy Rights Council, and the National Anti-Racism Council of Canada.

 

Meanwhile, secret trial detainee Hassan Almrei is now on Day 64 of a hunger strike, demanding the right to one hour a day of exercise outside of his cell.  Hassan Almrei has been detained under a security certificate in solitary confinement for four years.

 

Harjap Grewal of the immigrant and refugee rights group No One is Illegal-Vancouver states “We continue to support the families of these five men in demanding that the men be released; or, if any case against them actually exists, that they be allowed to defend themselves in open, fair and independent trial with full disclosure; that they not be deported; and that the security certificate process be abolished.”

                                  - 30 -

MEDIA CONTACT: Harsha Walia (No One is Illegal) 778-885-0040


No One is Illegal Opposes Beefing of Transit Security

Vancouver August 9, 2005- Immigrant and refugee communities represented in No One is Illegal Vancouver  are outraged at the security meetings conducted by Federal Transportation Minister Jean Lapierre to discuss security in Canada’s public transit system in the wake of the London bombings.  

 

Upgraded security measures in the post 9/11 climate have led to an increase of racial profiling and invasion of privacy rights. Within weeks of 9/11, Canada has implemented a wide array of laws and practices in the areas of criminal law, immigration law, tax law, employment, intelligence services, and airport security. Further Orwellian measures, such as the increased use of cameras in subway and trains proposed by LaPierre, will have a devastating effect on the right to privacy in public spaces and despite government assurances, will have a disproportionate impact on racialized communities.

 

“We are increasingly moving towards a paranoid police state as Canada is moving towards harmonizing security policies with the United States,” states Amal Rana, member of the immigrant and refugee rights group No One is Illegal.

 

In the United States, two elected officials Dov Hikind and James Oddo, have publicly stated that Middle Easterners should be targeted for searches on city subways as they fit the “terrorist profile.” Hikind further stated, “They all look a certain way and …[they are] a group of people who want to kill us and destroy our way of life.”

 

According to a January 2004 handout, the Department of Homeland Security advises U.S. border authorities to look out for certain "suicide bomber indicators." They include a "A short haircut or recently shaved beard or moustache may be evident by differences in skin complexion on the head or face. May smell of herbal or flower water (most likely flower water), as they may have sprayed perfume on themselves, their clothing, and weapons to prepare for Paradise.

 

The American Civil Liberties Union- New York Chapter filed a lawsuit on August 4, 2005 in response to the New York Police Department's unprecedented policy of subjecting millions of New Yorkers to suspicionless searches in subways. Since the police adopted this policy just days after the London bombings, officers have searched the purses, handbags, briefcases and backpacks of thousands of people, all without any suspicion of wrongdoing.

 

Harsha Walia, member of No One is Illegal, further states, “Like many human rights organizations throughout the world, we are deeply concerned about the erosion of rights since September 11, 2001. The recent push for transit security by Jean Lapierre , along with all the other so-called security measures such as Canada’s Anti-terrorism legislation, have a fundamentally adverse impact on civil liberties, human rights, refugee protection, and political dissent.”

 

-30-

Media contacts:

Amal Rana (No One is Illegal): 604-764-6257

Parisa Yazdi (No One is Illegal): 778-83-1416


STATUS FOR ALL! MARCH

why are we marching?

 

JUNE 26, 2005- We are organizing this silent march today to honour all the deportees struggling against Citizenship and Immigration Canada. We are marching to support our main demands: 1) the regularization of all non-status people in Canada; 2) an end to the deportation and detention of migrants; and 3) the abolition of security certificates.

 

This march is being organized to coincide with the historic 200 km walk from Montreal to Ottawa being organized from June 18-25, 2005 to draw attention to the struggles of refugees and immigrants for life and dignity. Dozens of groups have so far endorsed the march, including the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW), the Canadian Union of Postal Employees (CUPW), the Quebec Women's Federation (FFQ), and many more.

 

We are marching because hundreds of thousands of people live in Canada without status. Lack of status, deportations, detentions, and security certificates all contribute to making migrants vulnerable to exploitation, poverty, insecurity and indignities that no one should suffer. In the current political context, as Canada rushes to harmonize its border policies with the United States to create a unified "Fortress North America", the situation of immigrants and refugees is worsening.  Meanwhile, the Canadian government supports international agreements that allow the free movement of capital, business and goods across the globe. Business relocation has created huge areas of poverty and depression around the world giving people no choice but to migrate in order to save their families and children from poverty, war and militarization.

 

Every day, thousands of migrants and their families struggle against the uncertainties created by Immigration Canada. Without status, and deemed “illegal”, thousands of migrants are forced to live in poverty, without sufficient access to health care or education, and in great fear of being detained or deported, all the while being the most exploited in the workplace. Many sectors of the Canadian economy rely on the exploited labour of non-status and refugees, thus maintaining a social and economic system that has created two classes of people. They are forced underground; threatened with detention or with deportation to desperate situations; and subjected to discriminatory legal standards. The people whose lives have been torn apart by Canadian immigration are not anonymous; they are our friends and neighbors. Some families threatened with deportation have lived and worked in Vancouver for several years and have Canadian-born children; this is their home. In the past years, we have written hundreds of letters, collected thousands of signatures, and organized dozens of demonstrations. We have successfully fought deportations and detentions, but have also seen our family members and friends removed, detained, forced underground or forced into sanctuary.

 

In Vancouver, the migrant communities leading the march are simply demanding their basic rights to a secure life, dignity and a future. Our demands for regularization call for the recognition and affirmation of rights and status of people residing in Canada without permanent residency- non status peoples, refugees, and temporary workers. Regularization is an issue of self-determination and justice. Our fundamental principle of regularization is that  we need a comprehensive, transparent, inclusive and ongoing regularization program that is both equitable and accessible to all persons living without legal immigration status in Canada (non-status). Any regularization program must be non-discretionary, non-arbitrary and be applied consistently. While any regularization program is in process, all levels of government in Canada must guarantee non-status people full and equal access to health care, social assistance, education, childcare, employment, labour protection, housing, legal aid, domestic violence services etc., without fear of identification, criminalization, detention, deportation or any other kind of enforcement.

 

 We march on the 10th anniversary of the “Bread and Roses” March against poverty, organized by Quebec women, and the 70th anniversary of the On-to-Ottawa Trek, organized by unemployed workers during the Great Depression; we march in the tradition of those previous efforts for social and economic justice.

 

For every arbitrary detention, for every summary deportation, for every minute spent in jail without charge or trial, for every anxious and dehumanizing day spent waiting for status—for all the stolen time and the stolen lives -- this march will pay tribute to those fighting in this silent battle.


Submissions to UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

June 2005: The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has been in Canada the past few weeks exploring the detention of immigrants and refugees. They have visited the Secret Trial Five in prison and Mr. Charkaoui (under draconian bail) as well as met with individuals working on the issue. The committee will report its findings to the UN Commission on Human Rights next year.

 

below is an edited version of no one is illegal vancouver's submissions to the working group while they were in vancouver.

 

Detention of Asylum-seekers

 

Seeking ayslum is a right, not a crime. But an increasing number of people, having been forced to flee their homes to escape persecution, are being placed behind bars on arrival in Canada. They are held in conditions of imprisonment that are fundamentally inhuman and degrading. Asylum-seekers in the Canada are liable to be stripped, shackled and sometimes verbally or physically abused. Many are confined in high-security jails and unlike Canadian citizens charged with the offences, are often excluded from bail and have no idea when they will be released. For example, approximately one quarter of the prison population at the Metro Toronto West Detention Centre, a maximum security prison, are immigrants and refugees placed under a “deportation hold”, held without a criminal charge.Refugees and immigrants are being arbitrarily detained in violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights of Freedoms section 7; "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice." On December 18, 1995, Nigerian Mike Akhinen died from medical neglect at Celebrity Inn, an Immigration Holding Centre outside of Toronto. His death highlights the situation of many refugees held in detention centres across Canada. 

 

We advocate and fight for an end to all processes of immigration detention in Canada. Canada is a state party to the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its Protocol, as well as to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its First Optional Protocol. The Canadian Immigration and Refugee Protection Act itself, in s. 3(3)(f), requires that the law be "construed and applied in a manner that complies with international human rights instruments to which Canada is a signatory."

 

  • Detention Statistics

In 2001, 44,452 asylum seekers applied for asylum in Canada. In the first quarter of 2002, 6,784 applications were filed. Statistics from Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) indicate that at any given time there is an average of 455 detainees across Canada under the Immigration Act, however since the turnover rate of detention is so high, this estimate does not provide the full picture. Around 10,000 asylum seekers have, at some point in the process, been detained by Canadian immigration for a time period range from 48 hours to over 18 months.

 

  • Grounds for Detention in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act

The new Immigration and Refuge Protection Act (June 2002) codifies factors to be considered in decision-making. Members of the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) Immigration Division, who are responsible for reviewing decisions on detention, continue to have wide discretion on issues of detention because decisions are made on a case by case basis. The new legislation broadens the circumstances upon which detention can occur, and the announced benefits of the new regime are to “provide enhanced protection of Canadian society,” with no

mention of the protection of rights of refugee claimants.

 

As stated in IRPA § 55(2), the three main grounds for detention are flight risk, danger to the public or if the officer is unsatisfied as to the identity of the claimant. In the past, persons could only be detained on the basis of identity at the port of entry. Now, persons can be detained at any point in the claim process for identity reasons. This includes those who present themselves to make an inland claim.

 

The expansion of detention on the basis of identity is of particular concern because those seeking asylum are often forced to leave their countries without proper identification because it is their very identity which puts them at risk. In addition, there has already been an increase in the use of detention for identification grounds.  Under § 55(3) a claimant may be detained upon entry into Canada where the officer “considers it necessary… in order for the examination to be completed”, creating a situation in which detention occurs only for reasons of administrative efficiency, and is therefore an arbitrary deprivation of liberty.

 

The ground of being considered a "flight risk" is also inherently problematic. When asylum seekers are rejected and express any opinion that they should not have been rejected due to danger they face in their home country, they are almost certainly detained by Canadian immigration officials. This creates a catch-22 for asylum seekers who are essentially coerced into signing documents "consenting" to leaving Canada in order to avoid detention.

 

  • Time limit on detention

There are no formal limits to detention periods, although the IRB guidelines state that decisions to detain and extensions to detention periods must be “reasonable in accordance with principles of fundamental justice.”13 In Sahin v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), [1995] 1 F.C. 214, the Federal Court, which has jurisdiction over immigration issues, upheld the principle that indefinite detention for a lengthy period of time can constitute a deprivation of liberty that is not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice. This is upheld in The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration (Applicant) vs. Cheong Sing Lai and Ming Na Tsang (Respondents), [2001] 3 F.C. 326.

 

  • Access to legal aid for detainees

There is no right to free legal representation for detained asylum seekers under Canadian law. Each asylum seeker is apprised of the right to legal counsel and afforded an opportunity to obtain legal counsel. However, access to legal aid is limited, and the provision of free legal services is uneven since legal aid is administered provincially not federally.

 

  • Minors in detention

There are approximately 20 minors detained in Canada at any given time.

 

  • Project Threadbare

In August 2003, the RCMP arrested 21 students and refugee claimants born in Pakistan, following an investigation called "Project Thread". Officers with the Public Security and Anti-Terrorism unit (PSAT) claimed a pattern of behaviour of a larger "group" led authorities to be, resulting in the arrests. The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) which became effective in November 2002, grants the federal government powers to detain without charges any landed immigrant or foreign national who is considered to be a threat to national security. Many of the individuals arrested reportedly had valid student visas or were awaiting a refugee hearing. The RCMP later noted that there was no evidence to suggest that there is a terrorist threat related to the investigation. However, this has not addressed the fear in communities that felt most vulnerable in the resulting publicity, and among community organizations that serve refugees and immigrants. The arrests under "Project Thread" and resulting media coverage caused grave concern among South Asian, Muslim and Arab communities, and organizations that provide assistance to these communities. The arrests heightened the sense of vulnerability to discrimination experienced by the communities.

 

  • Safe Third Country Agreement and Smart Border Declaration

On December 29, 2004, Canada's Safe Third Country Agreement took effect. This radical change to Canadian refugee policy will prevent asylum seekers from making claims in Canada if they arrive by land via the United States. The net effect of the policy will be to prevent at least 1/3 of all refugee claims from even being heard. Refugee rights' advocates have denounced the new shift as a "none is too many" policy against refugees. Hundreds of asylum seekers gathered at border entry points, such as Fort Erie, to attempt to beat the deadline and were detained.

 

Security Certificates

 

The government of Canada is currently holding 4 Arab men in prison without charge based on secret evidence under Security Certificates. A fifth man, Adil Charkoui, was released on bail in Feb 17 2005 after a judge determined that any alleged imminent threat he posed to Canada had been neutralized due to his 21 month long detention (mostly in solitary). Together the men constitute the “secret trial five”. These men are Mohammed Mahjoub (country of origin Egypt, detained since June 2000); Mahmoud Jaballah (country of origin Egypt, detained since August 2001); Mohamed Harakat (country of origin Algeria, detained since December 2002); Hasan Almrei (country of origin Syria, detained since October 2001), and Adil Charkoui (country of origin Morocco).

 

Under the new Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, there is mandatory detention under § 82(2), which states that “[a] foreign national who is named in a certificate described in subsection 77(1) shall be detained without the issue of a warrant.” § 77(1) provides that the Minister of Immigration and the Solicitor General of Canada “sign a certificate stating that a permanent resident or foreign national is inadmissible on grounds of security, violating human or international rights, serious criminality or organized criminality.” The decision that leads to inadmissibility is taken by the executive and not by a judge. A Federal Court Trial judge only has the power to decide if the certificate is reasonable, and based on this decision either upholds or quashes the certificate. The decision of the designated judge has far-reaching implications for a permanent resident like the appellant, who will be deported from the territory, this decision being final and without appeal.

 

Amnesty International has written that “the security certificate process may very well result in arbitrary detention and thus violate the fundamental right to liberty.” The detainees are not informed of the precise allegations against them. They see only a summary of the evidence and evidence maybe presented in court in the absence of the detainee or their lawyer. The detainee is not afforded a right to examine any of the witnesses. Thus there is no means for the appellant to test the validity and credibility of this information and thus it is difficult if not impossible for him to refute it. The detainees may be detained indefinitely without any charges laid against them. The UN Body of Principles for the Protection of all Persons under any Form of Detention or Imprisonment, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1988 establish that anyone who is detained shall be given an "effective opportunity" to be heard by a judicial or other authority, has the right to defend him or herself, and shall received "prompt and full communication" of any order of detention "together with the reasons therefore." The Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, adopted in 1990, underscore that lawyers must be given access to "appropriate information, files and documents" so that they can provide their clients with "effective legal assistance."

 

The security certificate process undoubtedly violates principles of due process and justice and the fundamental principle of innocent until proven guilty. The standard of evidence adopted by Parliament to justify the issuance of a security certificate is too minimal, since it is enough to have reasonable grounds to believe that the acts have occurred, are occurring or may occur when this standard should have been more stringent and require that the acts be proved according to the standard of the balance of probabilities. The Security Certificate process contravenes the right to a fair trial before an independent and impartial tribunal, when, for example, the designated Federal Court judge must determine the “reasonableness” of the security certificate issued by the ministers and not the merits of the case. Under paragraph 78(j), the designated judge may admit, and base his decision on, any evidence that he considers useful, even if it is inadmissible at trial.

 

The use of security certificates violates the prohibition against indefinite detention. It violates internationally recognized procedural guarantees such as the International Convention Against Torture, to which Canada is a signatory, and Articles 9 and 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Furthermore, it violates the absolute obligation not to send people to country where he or she faces torture. The United Nations Committee against Torture, in 2000, informed Canada that it is a violation of the UN Convention against Torture to deport an individual to face a substantial risk of torture, including when there are security concerns. The Canadian government has already recognized themselves that at least three of the men will face significant risk of torture if deported.

 

The security certificate process, in existence since 1993, has also served as a template for Canada’s widely criticized post 9/11 anti-terrorism legislation. Although the UK House of Lords struck down their counterpart anti-terrorism laws in December 2004 concluding that indefinite detention of non-citizens terrorist suspects was a discriminatory means, Canada’s security certificate process and Anti-terrorism legislation have survived Court challenges.

 

Accordingly, we demand that the Security Certificate process be abolished.

For those currently imprisoned under security certificates, we demand:

- That they be released immediately; or, if any case against them actually exists, that they be allowed to defend themselves in open, fair and independent trials with full disclosure of the case against them.
- That they not be deported.


Abolish Security Certificates- June 8, 2005

Our action today is part of pan-Canadian day to Stop Secret Trials in Canada with actions in Winnipeg, Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Edmonton, Halifax. June 8 is anniversary of the day on which Canada signed the Convention Against Torture. The Secret Trial 5 are five Muslim men whose lives have been torn apart by accusations they are not allowed to fight in a fair trial and independent trial. Thus it is an appropriate day to highlight how the govt, using security Certificates, is trying to deport five men although the Immigration department recognizes the risk of tortures they face if deported.

 

It is also an appropriate day to highlight the numerous other ways that the Canadian govt, through other anti-migrant tools such as the Safe third country agreement, is deporting or forcing people to return to or remain in situations where they will be tortured The Canadian govt is also complicit in the ongoing torture associated with the brutal occupations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Haiti and elsewhere. It is no coincidence that in a situation like the present, where the “war on terror” is being used to advance the agenda of political and economic domination, that norms against torture are being eroded. But we know that security will be tenuous unless grounded in human rights. Not just human rights and due process for so-called terrorist suspects in Canada but also human rights and justice for those all the millions of people struggling against war, militarization, imperialism and occupation.

 

The government of Canada is currently holding 4 Arab men in prison without charge based on secret evidence under Security Certificates. A fifth man, Adil, was released on bail in Feb 17 2005 after a judge determined that any alleged imminent threat he posed to Canada had been neutralized due to his 21 month long detention (mostly in solitary). Together the men constitute the “secret trial five”.

 

The Security Certificate process undoubtedly violates democracy, human rights and principles of due process and justice. The detainees are not informed of the precise allegations against them. They see only a summary of the evidence and evidence maybe presented in court in the absence of the detainee or their lawyer. The detainee is not afforded a right to examine any of the witnesses. The Federal Court can only consider the reasonableness of the decision to issue a SC and does not review the merits of the case. The detainees may be detained indefinitely without any charges laid against them. Security Certificates violate the fundamental principle of innocent until proven guilty. The Security Certificate process violates the prohibition against indefinite detention. It also violates internationally recognized procedural guarantees such as the Convention Against Torture and Articles 9 and 14 of the Intl covenant on civil and political rights. It violates the absolute obligation not to send a person to country were he or she faces torture. The Canadian govt has already recognized themselves that at least three of the men will face significant risk of torture if deported.

 

Security Certificates, in existence since for at least decade) are measures of the Immigration and Protection Act and have served as a template for Canada’s widely criticized post 9/11 anti-terrorism legislation. Although the UK House of Lords struck down their counterpart anti-terrorism laws in Dec 2004 concluding that indefinite detention of non-citizens terrorist suspects was a discriminatory means, Canada’s SC process and Anti-terrorism legislation have survived Court challenges.

 

Under the guise of the “war on terrorism”, racial profiling and racism against Arab, Muslim and South Asian communities has increased as our communities have come under attack. Racial profiling imposes a double standard on our communities by which we are held collectively responsible, and then demonized and criminalized, for the actions of individual members of our communities. History should stand as warnings to us with the red scare of the McCarthyist era and the internment of Japanese-Canadians (so-called “enemy aliens”) during WWII. The Security Certificates process- a form of legislated racism- is the recent manifestation in this historic trend of racism, exclusion, and the ideology of Otherness. We have to stand up against the politics of racist fear and the politics of imperialism that impacts not only those abroad but those here at home fighting a silent war against repressive govt policies. Abolish Security Certificates now!


Reponse to Immigration Policy Annoucements

STATEMENT ON BEHALF OF NO ONE IS ILLEGAL VANCOUVER

April 22, 2005

Joe Volpe stated in a press release dated April 18, 2005 “Canada’s immigration system is a model for the world.” We sincerely hope that Canada’s immigration system, which is a self-declared fortress against newcomers, does not become a model for the world.

Reducing application times, exemptions for the language requirements for the citizenship test, and issuance of visitor visas, as per Joe Volpe’s recent policy announcements, are band-aid solutions that do not begin to scratch the surface of systemic problems with the immigration and refugee system in Canada. Furthermore, all of the changes introduced by the Minister address the economic needs of the government and the country. The $550 application-processing fee is considered to be a major source of profits for the federal government. The Minister needs to prioritize human rights ahead of his quest for profits. Even more disturbing is that the Minister appears to view the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as an obstacle for his immigration agenda.  As Minister Volpe stated in a recent Globe and Mail interview, “The Charter of Rights gives certain rights to everyone that sets foot in this country, and we have to deal with this.”

In recent weeks and months, the government and media have portrayed the refugee system as one plagued by abusers. The prevalent discourse behind this is one that re-articulates the war on migrants and aims to lay blame for a deeply flawed system on its own victims. Borders and nation-states are historically specific social systems that shape distinctive cultures and identities. There are those who are Canadian and those who eternally remain as hyphenated citizens- Indo-Canadian, Chinese-Canadian, just never quite Canadian enough. With the events of 9/11, the identities of Canadians versus those of the terrorists are being further re-defined and there is the increasing public perception that migrants are terrorists or criminals whose ability to remain in Canada must be curbed.

Such calls for “border control” create more vulnerability, abuse and terror in the lives of those who are already the world’s most vulnerable, most abused and most terrorized people. Today, an estimated 150 million people are in migration. Increased migratory pressure over the decades owes more to the dynamism of international capitalism rather than to the growing size of the population of Third World countries. Those colonial forces are the same forces that have caused and continue to perpetuate genocide and dispossession of indigenous peoples within the colonial territories of North America. The very conditions that spawn migration into the countries of the North—war, poverty, unemployment, destruction of the rural economy, dispossesion—are fueled by G-8 policies on free trade and western-style "development"; the same G-8 nations then refuse any semblance of life and dignity to those migrants who can get to the territories of the North.

What follows is not merely a laundry list of grievances; these are real and systemic issues that affect the lives of thousands of people. Every day, thousands of migrants and their families struggle against the uncertainties and fear created by the current processes and policies of Immigration Canada. Nonstatus and other migrants are forced underground and rendered highly vulnerable and exploitable; threatened with detention or with deportation; and subjected to discriminatory legal standards. The system creates a vulnerable community of non-citizens, which all industrialised states use as temporary, cheap, and hyper-exploitable labour. This apartheid system of assigning criminal status to "illegals" means that they are treated as a flexible pool of workers without rights of settlement or political enfranchisement.

The racist scapegoating and criminalization of migrants has also meant an attack on basic civil liberties. Canada’s Secret Trial Five are five Muslim men whose lives have been torn apart by accusations that they are not allowed to fight in a fair and independent trial. All five men were arrested under "Security Certificates," that have been described by Amnesty International as "fundamentally flawed and unfair". They are imprisoned indefinitely without charges on secret evidence and face deportation to their countries of origin, even if there is a substantial risk of torture or death. The shameful history of Japanese-Canadians being interned and deported from Canada during World War II and the "red scare" of the McCarthy era should stand as warnings to us.

The governments covert and overt endorsement of racial profiling in the 9/11 climate is further demonstrated through policies such as the creation of the Canada Border Services Agency that handles enforcement of removals and reports to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. Having refugee claimants processed by an enforcement agency sends the racist message that refugee claimants are a threat to public safety. Operation Thread has been a clear example of gross human rights violations resulting from Canadian immigration policy.  In August 2003, newspapers reported the arrest and detention of 22 Pakistani and 1 Indian student as suspected terrorists.  The incriminating evidence at the time was as simple as young men living together in sparsely furnished apartments,
something that is common among college students.  The RCMP and immigration eventually backed away from all of the allegation but the detainees were already publicly labeled as terrorist and most have since been deported.

In a similar vein, Muslims in Canada this week expressed their disappointment and outrage upon hearing that Canada voted against an important United Nations resolution which seeks to protect the rights of Muslims and stem the tide of Islamaphobia in the world. The UN resolution expressed concerns regarding "the intensification of the campaign of defamation of religions, and the ethnic and religious profiling of Muslim minorities, in the aftermath of the tragic events of 11 September 2001 and expressed deep concern that Islam was frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and terrorism." Canada was one of 16 countries that voted against this important resolution, giving the impression that it actually supports or condones racism and intolerance. Canada's NO vote is a sad testimony on the Government of Canada and we call on the Canadian Government to reverse its decision.

The announcement by Mr. Volpe provides no assistance to the tens of thousands of migrant and temporary workers in Canada who are employed under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program or Live in Caregiver Program, whose contributions to our society go unrecognized. For example, migrant farm workers from the Caribbean, Mexico and Guatemala work in Canada’s agricultural industry for up to 25 to 30 years with no social and/or economic mobility rights. We call for Permanent residency status to be provided for temporary migrant workers and that a program of regularization that is comprehensive, inclusive and equitable be initiated for all non-status peoples in Canada.

The current refugee system is also plagued with a disregard for the rights of asylum seekers. No One is Illegal, along with the Iranian Federation of Refugees, has for example, struggled with Haleh Sahba, an Iranian women’s-rights activist, who was deported in December 2004. The Canadian government, in deporting Haleh, assured her of her safety in Iran. Yet it is now widely reported that she was detained and faced serious charges. There is no reason to believe that Haleh is an exception in our refugee process and that the Canadian government appropriately concerns itself with the risk that asylum seekers face in their countries of origin.

Contrary to public perception, there are not an infinite numbers of appeals that a refugee can access in Canada. For the overwhelming majority of claimants, refugee determination in Canada is a one-step process because there is in fact no full merit based appeal in Canada. For example, one of the limited avenues in the refugee process, the Pre-Removal Risk Assessment, had an overall national acceptance rate of less than 3% in the year 2004. If Canadians have the right to appeal a parking ticket, then certainly refugees facing potential torture or death should have the right to appeal the decision of a single, politically-appointed decision in a process that has been called a “lottery system”. We call for an immediate implementation of the Refugee Appeal Division as promised and as provided for by the (ironically-titled) Immigration and Refugee Protection Act 2002.

Despite the popularly perpetuated myth of a “border rush ”, the number of refugee applications in Canada has actually declined 41% since 2001. Those numbers are expected to drop even more sharply this year due to the Safe Third Country Agreement. Canada and US signed an agreement that took effect Dec. 29, 2004 disallowing refugees from seeking asylum in Canada if they first arrived in the U.S. This major attack on asylum seekers mimics historic Canadian immigration policies such as the “None is Too Many” policy against Jewish refuges, the Continuous Journey policy implemented to exclude South Asian migrants, and the Chinese Exclusion Act. History is grossly repeating itself and we call for a repeal of this racist and exclusionary Agreement.

Simultaneously, removals from Canada have increased from 8946 removals in 2001 to over 10,000 removals in 2004.

These are the issues and policies that need to be addressed. The survival and dignity for people must be first and foremost. Token solutions will do little to quell the growing resistance that demand systemic transformation to Canada’s current immigration system. Contrary to reformist approaches to this reality of global apartheid that accepts colonial and imperialist control, No One is Illegal sees strength in our unity as immigrants, refugees and non-status people build greater trust in visions of an alternate world and organize, educate, act and fight for their own self-determination.

- By Harsha Walia and Harjap Grewal


THE CANADIAN REFUGEE CAMP

Shattering the myth of Canadian multiculturalism and humanitarianism...

January 11, 2005

There has always been racism in Canada's refugee and immigration policies built into the very structure of the system. The exclusion of Chinese migrants after Confederation, the internment of Japanese-Canadians during World War II and the refusal of Jewish refugees in the “None is too Many” policy after World War II are three well-known examples. This mistreatment was clearly fed by racist prejudice and these chapters in Canadian history are recognized as shameful, and yet are being repeated.

The domestic consequences of the “War on Terrorism” includes massive arrests and the interrogation of immigrants and refugees, the passing of legislation granting intelligence and law enforcement agencies much broader powers of intrusion into the private lives of people, pervasive government and media censorship of information, the silencing of dissent, and widespread racial profiling and criminalization of Muslim, Arab and South Asian communities.

Legislation such as the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, Statutes of Canada 2001, and the Anti-Terrorism Act has strengthened the association between terrorism and immigration. The ability of the Canadian government to impose such major legislation despite the resounding resistance of affected communities says multitudes about democracy and equal rights.

Increasing detention and deportation statistics and decreasing acceptance rates continue to criminalize refugees who fight for basic survival.

The new Immigration and Refugee Protection Act promised a Refugee Appeal division within one year, i.e. by June 2003, which is yet to be implemented. This is certainly not a minor issue- Canadians are afforded the right to appeal even a parking ticket, while the lives of refugees is based on a lottery system.

Furthermore the IRB has been “streamlined” such that the life and fate of people is completely in the hands of one judge; judges who do not necessarily have any background in the law, rather who are appointees enforcing the political agenda of the government. 

A new department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness is taking over the responsibility for deportations from Immigration Canada, casting migrant removals as an issue of public safety.

According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada records of 2002, of the 440 people being held in Canadian detentions at any given point in time, only 5 people had actual allegations of ‘being a threat to national security’ laid on them.

We reject the logic that immigrants and refugees are terrorists or make Canada unsafe.

For members of immigrant and refugee communities, the handling of cases such as Operation Thread sends a clear message that the Canadian government practices racial profiling.

Security certificates have been used to arbitrarily detain Muslim men on so-called secret evidence in complete defiance of their basic civil rights. When detained under such an Orwellian-measure, there is no chance of bail for refugees, detention can be indefinite, and neither the person detained nor a defence lawyer is allowed access to the heart of the evidence on grounds of "national security”.

Meanwhile, those without full rights are forced to silence dissent in fears of being deported. Proposed Bill C-18 would grant the cabinet government the “power to refuse citizenship if the person has demonstrated a flagrant and serious disregard for the principles and values underlying a free and democratic society”.

The most draconian measure on the rights of migrants in Canadian history is the Smart Border Policy and Safe Third Country taking effect on December 29, 2004. The Safe Third Country Agreement would that mean asylum seekers who land in the US (a common transit point when travelling to Canada) would no longer be allowed to make their way to Canada to claim refugee status; they would be forced to make their claim in the US instead. This is yet another way to create a fortress in North America similar to Fortress Europe, reducing the number of refugee claims in Canada by an estimated 40%; robbing the rights of migrants to self-determine where they would like to re-settle, while contending with some of the most dehumanizing refugee practices in the US.


PUBLIC STATEMENT ON THE HUNGER STRIKE STOP UNJUST DEPORTATIONS TO IRAN

January 2005

Mr Ali Reza Monemi received a deportation order on January 7, 2005 back to Iran on Tuesday January 11. He pleaded with Immigration officials to receive more time to arrange his affairs before his deportation but his request was refused and he was promptly detained.

Mr. Ali, like many other Iranian refugees, is facing deportation to a country despite grave danger to his life. According to medical reports, Mr Monemi has already suffered sixty lashes at the hand of the Morality Police and he has been sentenced to 85 more lashings, imprisonment and excommunication within Iran. He also faces the possibility of death for fleeing the country in 1999 before his punishment could be carried out and for making a refugee claim in Canada.

Immigration Canada in the past has claimed that they have no evidence of any danger inflicted upon anyone who was deported to Iran, but the recent highly-publicized case of Haleh Sahba (a womens rights activist deported from Vancouver exactly one month ago on Dec 7) has proven otherwise. It has been widely reported that Haleh was detained for 26 hours. Like Haleh Sahba, Ali is being sent back to Iran without adequate travel documents.

On November 5, 2004 Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew announced that Canada tabled a resolution at the 59th session of the UN General Assembly, on the deteriorating human rights situation in Iran and the Canadian government maintains a travel advisory to Iran for Canadians. Meanwhile, Immigration Canada is sending Iranians back to serious danger With new immigration and security laws introduced after 9-11, the regressive nature of Canada's immigrant and security laws have increased.

New laws and policy changes are transforming Canada and the US into Fortress North America. The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act has made it more difficult to obtain status in Canada -- whether as an immigrant or refugee -- while making detentions and deportations easier.

The "Safe Third Country" agreement, implemented on December 29, 2004, will allow the immediate removal of any refugee claimant who enters Canada via the United States. This accounts for up to 40% of all refugee claimants.

The Anti-Terrorism Act provides unprecedented powers to police and government officials, including detention without trial and secret evidence. Instead of providing a fair hearing to refugee claimants, the IRB acts as a confrontational tribunal, populated by judges notorious and even charged for their incompetence, political partisanship, and in many cases, corruption.

Moreover, the new refugee determination system has no appeal process for a rejected claim, although Minister Coderre promised that the Refugee Appeal Division would be implemented in Canada by June 2003. Meanwhile, all the other avenues such as the Pre-Removal Risk Assessment process are deeply flawed, as statistically over 95% of refugees are unable to obtain a positive PRRA decision and refugees are allowed to be deported while still waiting for a decision on a pending Humanitarian and Compassionate claim.

WE DEMAND THAT:

1) Canada implement the Refugee Appeal Division as promised; and accordingly, re-open all previously refused cases, including for those underground with no legal status, and allow them a fair and full merit-based appeal.

2) Canada implements a moratorium on deportations to Iran

3) The release of refugees being detained.

BRING MOHAMED CHERFI HOME!

REPORT FROM VANCOUVER

On March 9, 2004 60 people gathered in front of CIC offices in Vancouver to denounce the sanctuary violation that led to Mohamed Cherfi’s arrest and deportation, and to demand that Mohamed Cherfi be brought back home.

The rally consisted of solidarity messages from the Palestine Community Center, South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy, Vancouver Association of Chinese-Canadians as well as public denouncements of the IRB and CIC by activists and an outspoken refugee lawyer. Those gathered were moved by an aboriginal prayer conducted to ensure the safe return of Mohamed Cherfi to his home.

The message was clear: Mohamed Cherfi is not the criminal, the refugee system and the government is. Zool Suleman, a refugee lawyer, spoke about the repressive new immigration legislation, which does not yet have the Appeal division as it promised, and reinforced that the public should be outraged at the violation of sanctuary to deport a brave human rights defender. Nandita Sharma was impassioned about the need to put people’s survival and dignity before the Canadian state’s racist agenda against communities of the global South.

Protesters carried banners and flyers ‘Bring Mohamed Cherfi home‘. Several cab drivers outside the offices and those entering the offices were interested in the information. One Algerian man exited the CIC offices with a deportation date within two days and joined the demonstration for refugee rights and justice for Mohamed Cherfi. In his words “I have fled from a horrible civil war in Algeria. But still it does not compare to here. Here it is not a civil war, but it is a war of a different kind which I have been facing for four years. Here they pretend there is no war.”

After one hour, approximately 25 protestors proceeded upstairs into the CIC offices with banners, flyers and chanting “No Borders, No Nations, Stop the Deportations” through the hallways and amidst perplexed employees, judges and security. Six RCMP was already stationed upstairs. The protestors filled the tiny hallway and the waiting area and proceeded to chant to demand the return of Mohamed Cherfi. The police present there were also specifically targeted for their policies of enforcement, especially against immigrant/refugee communities and poor people, and for their complicity in violating the centuries-long tradition of sanctuary.

The energy was incredibly high as people clapped and banged and screamed throughout, effectively shutting down the office as employees were unable to continue with their  ‘business as usual’ for 45 minutes. Those in the waiting area chose to remain and listen about the history of the Non-status Algerian struggle.

It was made very clear that in the weeks to come, protestors will continue to picket and target CIC for its policies of deportation and to ensure the return of Mohamed.