“We are the wrong people of / the wrong skin on the wrong continent and what / in the hell is everybody being reasonable about… but let this be unmistakable this poem is not consent / I do not consent” – Poet June Jordan
No One Is Illegal Vancouver Coast Salish Territories is an anti-colonial migrant justice collective. We are writing this statement only two weeks into the recent federal election, where Stephen Harper’s Conservatives attained a majority in Parliament. We understand that the whole electoral system is flawed – from the façade of choice in liberal democracies to the illegitimacy of the Canadian state that occupies Indigenous lands. We do not simply advocate for “better” politicians or laws. Nonetheless, the specific context of the Conservative government, who have been in power since 2006, requires us to analyze our strategies and our struggles accordingly.
Over the next several years, we can expect to see a more aggressive anti-immigrant campaign by the Conservatives. Harper and Kenney have already announced that they plan on reintroducing Bill C49 “without any major changes”. Under the banner of combating ‘human smuggling’ – one of the Conservative’s main election platforms – this bill subjects asylum seekers, including children, suspected of using a smuggler to mandatory detention for at least the first year after their arrival. The proposed bill also denies these asylum seekers the right to appeal a negative refugee decision and they will be prohibited from obtaining permanent residency and from sponsoring family members for a five-year probationary period. Yet criminalizing smuggling only increases the stakes in irregular, often dangerous, migration.
Bill C49 is based on Australia’s internationally condemned policy of mandatory detention and the Tories are increasingly looking towards Australia, with high-level meetings between Kenney and Australian officials taking place in November 2010. In the past few months alone, there have been at least three major detainee hunger strikes, a number of riots, roof-top protests, breakout attempts, incidents of detainees sewing their lips shut, as well as two suicides at the Villawood and Curtin detention centres in Australia. This is the kind of inhumane treatment and repression that the Conservatives are willing to model.
The Conservatives will further perfect a system of containment and commodification of migrants through racist fear-mongering parroted by the corporate media, repressive laws and policies of exclusion, and enhanced border militarization through surveillance collaboration with the US. The number of refugees accepted will continue to decrease, deportations will continue to skyrocket, more nonstatus people and asylum seekers – such as queer undocumented artist Alvaro Orozco in Toronto – will face detention and incarceration, fewer and fewer family sponsorships will be accepted as immigrants are ripped apart from their parents and grandparents. Meanwhile migrants will be pushed into precarious and exploitative temporary worker programs to meet the needs of big business.
Across this country, built on occupied Indigenous land, we can unfortunately predict the social, political, and economic terrain over the next few years:
- Particular attacks on organizations promoting women’s reproductive justice and queer/sexual liberation.
- Job losses especially for public sector workers and public service cuts to social assistance, housing, healthcare, childcare, and education programs. Meanwhile banks get bailed out and corporations get hefty tax cuts in an era of austerity.
- Denial of climate change and unbridled resource extraction and corporate development on Indigenous lands including tar sands and oil pipeline expansion, mining, and logging.
- Support for policies of privatization of water, gas, recreational services, housing, transit, postal services, and other basic necessities.
- Pursuing multilateral and bilateral free trade agreements including with Colombia and Israel and the European Union.
- Millions more going into policing and prison expansion within the country and unending global imperialist occupations and military missions in Afghanistan, Libya, Palestine and elsewhere.
Alan Sears and James Cairns of the Toronto New Socialists write: “The Tories want to redirect feelings of insecurity, suggesting that it is the criminal, the terrorist or the refugee who is the real threat to our well-being rather than the banker, the employer or the Tory cabinet minister.”
Over the next few months and years, we strongly urge our friends and allies across diverse social and environmental movements to come together to effectively organize at the grassroots in our respective communities for Indigenous self determination, environmental justice, a world free of militarization, workers rights and income equity, migrant justice, and gender, queer, disability, and reproductive rights. “Don’t mourn, organize!” and dismantle these apartheid systems and structures of sweatshops and prisons, borders and reserves. To all those in the struggle ahead – we look forward to working together to build more sustainable, more creative, more (pro)active, and more disruptive movements for a humanity where everyone has the right to sustenance and the ability to provide it, where we are free of oppression, misery, and exploitation, and where we are able to live meaningfully in relationship to one another and in reverence for Mother Earth that sustains us.
for every arbitrary detention, for every hour spent working in Canadian sweatshops, for all the stolen lives – we rise up. against the ongoing occupation of this land. against the racist police state. against the exploitation of displaced migrant workers. against gentrification. against imperialist domination. against dehumanization and oppression. we stand in solidarity with all struggling for a liberated world. we stand for our dignity as the poor, the displaced, the colonized. and for the Earth. raise the ground up – ignite resistance.