1500+ Halt Deportation of Laibar Singh at Vancouver International Airport

Posted by admin on Dec 14th, 2007

laibar-dec-rally-1.jpgLaibar Singh, a 48-year old Punjabi refugee living in Vancouver, was due to be deported on December 10, ironically Human Rights Day. However, upwards to 1500 of Singh’s supporters rallied at the airport prior to his deportation, and peacefully blocked the Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA) officials from getting to the taxi where Singh was waiting. The flight that was due to deport Singh took off at 2:30pm, and he wasn’t on it. His deportation has now been temporarily postponed, and Mr. Singh is back with his community and friends.

laibar-dec-rally-6.jpg* Click here to listen to an interview with Naava Smolash, member of No One is Illegal Vancouver

* Click here and here to watch video coverage of the rally at the Vancouver International Airport

This act of resistance, defiance, and civil disobdience on International Human Rights Day by a diverse community of supporters stands as an inspiring and powerful example of people standing up to injustice and expressing their commitment to challenging the unjust laws and policies of Immigration Canada. It reminds us that we must challenge the idea that some migrants are more worthy than others; instead we must assert that the right to mobility and to self-determination is a fundamental and universal value of humanity.

The struggle against deportation and to support Laibar is not for him alone nor is it simply one case, rather it symbolizes the struggles and aspirations of his community and is part of a campaign for all immigrant and refugees who daily struggle to live with dignity. His situation reveals how hard and long racialized migrants must fight to assert their right to self-determination which the Canadian government consistently denies and instead perpetuates pain, anxiety, and violence through detentions and deportations against which we must continue to actively organize ourselves.

All Power to the People! No One Is Illegal!

Below are some mainstream news articles on the rallies.

Crowd prevents Vancouver deportation
ERIK MJANES, Canadian Press, December 10, 2007 at 8:16 PM EST

RICHMOND, B.C. — The Canada Border Services Agency has stayed the deportation of a paralyzed Indian man after a standoff at Vancouver International Airport.

“For safety and security reasons, Mr. Singh’s deportation has been delayed,” Derek Mellon, a spokesman for the agency, said Monday. He would not provide any information about when the removal order would be enforced.

About 500 people gathered Monday morning outside the departures level of the airport surrounding a van carrying Laibar Singh. By noon, the crowd had grown to over a thousand, many holding signs and chanting slogans.

Supporters stood atop cars with a megaphone leading chants in English and Punjabi against the Conservative government and immigration officials. The agency was forced to delay Mr. Singh’s deportation once it became clear officials would have to transport him through the crowd of supporters.

Border services officials said they were not willing to wade into the crowd to escort Mr. Singh to his flight. For more than three hours, a standoff between supporters and security officials filled the street in front of the international departures area.

In front of the Cathay Pacific reservation desk, RCMP officers consulted with airport staff as Mr. Singh’s 2:30 p.m. PST flight time neared.

Harsha Walia of the human rights group No One is Illegal broke the news Mr. Singh’s deportation had been stayed around 2 p.m. “He’s going back to the community,” she said. “His health is not necessarily that great so he may have a stop at the hospital first.”

Mr. Singh was in the hospital for eight hours Sunday night and supporters said they have letters from doctors at Surrey Memorial that say he’s unfit for travel.

Earlier, Ms. Walia disputed the border services agency’s suggestion that the crowd was a safety hazard, calling it a smear tactic. “We are here as peaceful protesters. CBSA is welcome to go through the crowd. But they will have to answer to people’s questions,” she said.

“They haven’t been able to answer me or anyone else whether they believe this deportation is just. Their fear is not of violence, their fear is dealing with the legitimate concerns of people.”

She said the agency gave no timeline for further action.

“It’s up to the government. The government has the ability to stop this deportation on a permanent basis if they don’t want to keep playing this cat and mouse game.”

Within an hour of the announcement, the crowd was almost completely dispersed.

Swara Gill, head of the Kalgidhar Khalsa Darbar temple in Abbotsford where Mr. Singh had been staying, said the Khalsa Diwan Society in New Westminster, B.C., would be taking over Mr. Singh’s care.

Mr. Singh came to Canada on a forged passport in 2003 but suffered a massive stroke three years later that left him a quadriplegic. Last week the border services agency served Mr. Singh with papers ordering him to leave the country on Monday. The exclusion order, which enforces an earlier deportation order, required the 48-year-old Punjabi man to report to the airport for a flight to India.

He is fighting to stay in Canada on humanitarian grounds because he fears he will not receive necessary medical care if he is returned to India, where he says that government has falsely accused him of having links to terrorism.

NDP MLA Raj Chouhan said deporting Mr. Singh would be inhuman. “People are very angry,” Mr. Chouhan said. “They are very concerned about it. “I caution this government if they don’t resolve this issue to the satisfaction of the community, this government will pay a big price in the
next election.”

B.C. protesters delay deportation of paralyzed man
Updated Mon. Dec. 10 2007 11:15 PM ET CTV.ca News Staff

A massive crowd of protesters halted the deportation of a paralyzed Indian man when they overwhelmed the Vancouver International Airport for more than three hours Monday.

Laibar Singh, 48, entered Canada on a forged passport in 2003 and suffered a massive stroke that left him a quadriplegic three years later.

He was served with an exclusion order last week, ordering him to leave the country on Monday. The Punjabi man has said the Indian government has wrongly accused him of
having links to terrorism.

He has been fighting a deportation order based on humanitarian grounds, saying he will not receive the necessary medical care if he returns to India.

“He’ll be going through this ordeal again and again,” said Harsha Walia, a supporter with the human rights group No One is Illegal. “And he’s been going through this since July. And every time this happens to him his health deteriorates, his mental health deteriorates, his physical health deteriorates.”

An estimated crowd of 500 met his van at the airport Monday morning, surrounding it and insisting officers would have to wade through them and answer questions if they wanted to deport Singh.

By noon, the chanting crowd had swelled to over 1,000 people, waving signs critical of the Conservative government. “This Canadian government, if they at all cared about human rights, they would not be deporting this man,” one protester shouted into a megaphone.

The agency decided against attempting to transport Singh through the crowd, and rescheduled his deportation at around 2 p.m.

Derek Mellon, a Canada Border Services Agency spokesperson said the deportation had been delayed for security reasons.

Mellon would not discuss the future of the removal order with members of the crowd.

Walia said the agency has refused to answer any questions about Singh. “They haven’t been able to answer me or anyone else on whether they believe this deportation is just,” Walia said.

“It’s up to the government. The government has the ability to stop this deportation on a permanent basis if they don’t want to keep playing this cat and mouse game.”

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