On Monday, April 23, a delegation of members and allies of No One Is Illegal-Vancouver occupied the Canadian Border Services Agency office to demand a meeting with Citizenship and Immigration Minister Diane Finley and her local representatives and to bring forward demands for migrant justice directly to those offices that quietly ruin the lives of individuals through detentions and deportations. Included below is the letter that was presented, including to migrants coming to the offices, all of whom were extremely supportive of the occupation and echoed the sentiment and chant "Stop the Deportations Now!"
The group also challenged those working for CIC and CBSA to account for their participation in the destruction of the lives of those deported and detained every day, including enforcement officers taking away shackled detainees that afternoon. Stickers stating 'No One is Illegal' were plastered all over the offices and chants throughout the afternoon brought voice to the thousands of invisible migrants who suffer the violence of this regime. Neither the meeting with the Minister's representatives nor a satisfactory explaination was forthcoming. After using stalling tactics and calling in a heavy contingent of police officers, employees quitely ducked out a back door to the office. It is impossible to remain silent as the lives of our community members and loved ones are destroyed and we resolve to return on Wednesday April 25th to repeat the demand for an end to the detention and deportation by the Canadian state of tens of thousands of people each year. Join us.
TEXT OF LETTER
We are here to directly address Canada's Immigration Minister Diane Finley. We are here because every day thousands of migrants and their families struggle against the uncertainties created by Immigration Canada. 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. They are forced underground; threatened with detention or with deportation to desperate situations; and subjected to discriminatory legal standards. Non-status peoples in Canada- who are workers in low-income jobs such as janitors, factory workers, cooks- and migrant workers in programs such as the Seasonal Agricultural Workers’ Program or the Live In Care-giver Program, make up the backbone of the Canadian economy yet continue to be treated as second-class citizens in contravention of the basic principles of justice and equality.
The people whose lives have been torn apart by Canadian immigration are not anonymous; they are our friends and neighbors. Some of us here today have direct experiences with the immigration and refugee system; all of us have witnessed and borne the violence, anguish, and pain of seeing our friends, families, and loved ones detained or deported. Some families threatened with deportation have lived and worked in Vancouver for several years and have Canadian-born children; this is their home.
Over the past several years, we have tirelessly campaigned for immigrant rights: we have written letters, signed petitions and organized pickets and demonstrations; we have actively resisted deportations, and supported individuals and families who are confronting the unjust immigration and refugee system, including filing numerous legal applications. We have on countless occasions pathetically pleaded for justice directly from your department and offices.
All this has unfortunately fallen on deaf ears. In fact, what we have witnessed with your current government is an increased commitment to a US-style enforcement approach to immigration as evident through last year’s high profile raids during which Canadian Border Service officials entered primary and secondary schools in Toronto on at least two occasions to detain children. You openly support anti-migrant measures such as the arming of the border guards and the Safe Third Country Agreement; you have campaigned for accelerated deportations; you have refused to implement a Refugee Appeals Division despite its legal guarantee in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act; and you are negotiating the secretive Security and Prosperity Partnership Agreement with the US and Mexico.
So we are here today to bring our demands for migrant justice and dignity to you directly. We call on you to tell us exactly how you perceive policies such as Safe Third Country Agreement- which is currently facing a legal challenge, the Security and Prosperity Partnership Agreement, the non ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers, the lack of implementation of a Refugee Appeals Division, and the expansion of temporary foreign worker program to be contributing to the human rights of migrant communities. We also call on you to tell us what you intend to do to regularize the status of hundreds of thousands of people working in Canada as non-status and migrant workers who continue to be exploited in the workplace, working for less then minimum wage, because of their lack of status. We ask you: if people are good enough to work in Canada, are they not good enough to stay?