Algerian refugee in Sanctuary finds new way to reach out through music

Posted by admin on May 2nd, 2008

Finding sanctuary in hip-hop by Stefan Christoff. The Hour, May 1 2008

==> For more info, visit, and to view a performance from rap artist 23 featuring the voice of Abdelkader Belaouni, go to:

Abdelkader Belaouni, an Algerian refugee living in sanctuary for more than two years at St-Gabriel’s Church in Pointe St-Charles, is launching a hip-hop album. After a winter-long collaboration with the Muslim-American rapper 23 (Tu-Three) – who recently transplanted to Montreal – the duo has produced a unique rap album, born within the walls of sanctuary and from a desire to fight for a more just refugee determination process in Canada.

Over two years ago, in defiance of a deportation order from Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Belaouni took sanctuary. Since, he has played an active role in the campaign for the government to act on his case while developing musical skills on the side. In the two years he’s been living within the walls at St-Gabriel’s Church, Belaouni has learned to play flute and piano and is now conveying his struggle through hip-hop.

“This is the first time I have made music in my life, let’s be honest,” explains Belaouni. “Many people would think that while in sanctuary I am simply hiding. However, throughout this time I have been working hard on my music, singing in sanctuary beside my bed.”

Belaouni, backed by many community organizations and social justice groups, has been fighting a very public battle with Immigration Canada. It’s not the only battle he’s faced in this lifetime. In 1996, Belaouni escaped a violent civil conflict in Algeria, which took an estimated 100,000 civilian lives, an escape that began his journey and struggles as a refugee. He’s also blind.
Despite his claims, Citizenship and Immigration Canada rejected Belaouni’s refugee application, issuing a deportation order that has led to the longest standing sanctuary case in Canada, stretching out now for over 850 days.

“This is one of the rare opportunities that Abdelkader has to express himself to the outside world, having been stuck between four walls for over two years,” explains Mostafa Henaway from the Committee to Support Abdelkader Belaouni.

“In creating the album, Abdelkader’s personality and struggle is expressed through the music, a cultural expression surrounding the themes of personal freedom and destiny and their relation to borders and global migration,” explains hip-hop artist 23, Belaouni’s collaborator. “After our first session it was clear that we were really starting to build on something, that there was a blessing for this project to work.”

Themes on the album range from local issues relating to antipoverty and housing struggles in Pointe St-Charles in Montreal’s southwest, where St-Gabriel’s Church is located, to issues of an international scope such as the realities faced by refugees in a time of war.

“One track is called Borders, a piece that highlights the privilege that a limited number of people and multinational corporations have to cross international borders freely,” says 23. “In today’s age of security and surveillance we are faced with increasing oppression. Twenty years ago many people celebrated the fall of the Berlin Wall, however, today we are seeing more and more walls going up throughout the world, from the U.S.-Mexico border to Israel’s apartheid wall in Palestine.”

Today, the official position of the Canadian government is that Belaouni is not allowed to remain within Canada’s borders, and a deportation order still stands.

Abdelkader Belaouni and 23 will launch their album on Saturday, May 3, at 7:30 p.m. at St-Gabriel’s Church (2157 Centre St., Charlevoix metro). It will also feature a performance by celebrated Toronto-based group LAL, who will launch their new album Deportation.

  • Sanctuary
  • Comments Off on Algerian refugee in Sanctuary finds new way to reach out through music

Comments are closed.