The Law Union of Ontario (“The Law Union”) is dismayed by recent attacks by the Conservative Government’s Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, aimed at the grassroots migrant rights group No One Is Illegal. No One Is Illegal has a proven track record of working alongside migrant communities and individuals on issues relating to human rights and broader social justice. From working to ensure undocumented people living in Canada have access to women’s shelters, food banks, and health care, to organizing campaigns against discriminatory immigration laws and continued resource theft from Indigenous communities and the agenda of increased profits on the backs of people’s welfare as exhibited by the G8-G20 governments, No One Is Illegal is an important and crucial voice of dissent.
Coming at a time when the Tory government seeks to further erode the human rights of immigrants and refugees through amendments contained in Bill C-31, dubbed the “Refugee Exclusion Bill” by a growing number of critics, the government’s attempt to deflect attention from its own record is astonishing.
Co-ordinated national actions on April 4, 2012, by No One Is Illegal and their supporters helped to shine the light on the worrisome provisions of C-31, which creates a discriminatory two-tier system of refugee protection based on nationality, mandates incarceration for many asylum seekers, and revokes permanent residency from many people already granted refugee status.
Over the last few years, Conservative Minister Jason Kenney and other Harper Conservatives have targeted No One Is Illegal repeatedly, in press statements, in twitter posts and in statements in Parliament. The most recent targeting of NDP MP Don Davies for attending an anti-racism protest coordinated by No One Is Illegal – Vancouver is part of this long history of mud-slinging.
More then anything else, these attacks on No One Is Illegal are aimed at diverting attention from the government’s own policies – policies calculated to keep newcomers in precarious, vulnerable, and oppressive workplaces.
This is a tired old approach and must be challenged. Calling grassroots activists “hard-line extremists” as Mr Kenney does is dangerous. It suggests a government that wishes to create a chill on legitimate dissent. It tacitly encourages police authorities to target political organizers as we have seen take place during the G8/G20 Summits and in Indigenous communities across the country.
The Law Union stands in total agreement with the criticisms made by No One Is Illegal with respect to this government’s immigration policies, and is proud to work together with No One Is Illegal on a number of campaigns and issues. Most recently No One Is Illegal – Toronto and The Law Union collaborated to produce a guide for newcomers informing of their rights under Canadian law, which is now being published in many languages.
The Law Union calls upon the Minister and the government to refrain from attacking non-profit organizations with whom it does not agree as “un-Canadian” and focus instead on protecting and welcoming newcomers to this country.
The Law Union, founded in 1974, is a coalition of over 200 progressive lawyers, law students and legal workers. The Law Union provides for an alternative bar in Ontario which seeks to counter the traditional protections afforded by the legal system to social, political and economic privilege. The Law Union is run by an annually elected steering committee. The Law Union has several collectives and working groups and has active chapters at many law schools.