Arrest of Non Status Algerian activists and supporters

Posted by admin on Jun 29th, 2003

On May 29th 2003, 10 non-status Algerians and 2 supporters were brutally arrested in then-Immigration Minister Denis Coderre’s Ottawa office. They were charged with “mischief over $5,000”. Their trial began in Ottawa in June 2004 and will continue from February 21-March 9 and March 21-23, 2005. The stakes are high for those defendants who are still not regularized and risk being deported. They are calling for your support and solidarity.

The Struggle

The Action Committee for Non-Status Algerians has been organizing against the deportation of non-status Algerians for over three years. Their struggle intensified in April 2002, when then-Immigration Minister Denis Coderre lifted the moratorium on deportations to Algeria, leaving over 1000 non-status Algerians facing removal to a country still torn by civil conflict and brutal violence.

In October 2002, their dynamic struggle won a partial victory. After months of public meetings, petitions, demonstrations, meetings with immigration bureaucrats — and after the Bourouisa family sought sanctuary in a Montreal Church — Immigration Canada and Immigration Quebec announced the implementation of a special Joint Procedure for the regularization of some non-status Algerians. However, numerous individuals are excluded from that regularization procedure, and so the Action Committee has continued to fight for justice.

On Thursday, May 29th 2003, 10 non-status Algerians and 2 supporters from the No One Is Illegal Campaign of Montreal entered the waiting room of Coderre’s Ottawa office. They were delivering a letter demanding a face-to-face meeting with the Minister and a just solution for individuals facing deportation to Algeria because they are excluded from the regularization process put into place by Canada and Quebec Immigration. Since Coderre had repeatedly refused to meet or dialogue with members of the Action Committee, those delivering the letter decided to remain in the waiting room until he committed to the meeting.

The Crime

The police response to the action was brutal. At approximately 10:30 PM, members of the Ottawa Police Services tactical squad, in coordination with the RCMP, charged the people occupying the waiting room. After forcing them to the ground, the police beat and Tasered many of the men on their necks, backs, torsos and genitals. One man was bashed in the head with the butt of a Taser gun, leaving a large and bloody gash on his forehead. Another man’s tooth was broken when he was punched in the face by a police officer. Several men received Taser burns on the backs of their neck, backs and arms. These wounds have resulted in permanent scarring. The 12 individuals were arrested, charged with mischief over $5,000, and released from jail the next day.

The Trial

Almost one year to the day after the police attacked the unarmed protesters peacefully waiting in the immigration minister’s waiting room, the people they brutalized went to trial in Ottawa court. For three weeks in June 2004, Judge Ann Adler presided as Crown David Elhadad called witnesses from different policing and “security” institutions, some of whom testified with chilling detachment and lack of concern to the violence perpetrated against the non-status men during the arrest. (One Ottawa Police Services officer referred to punching a man in the head as “using the closed handed technique.”)

The Stakes

In fact only 10 of the 12 accused have been able to be present for trial. Immigration Canada deported one man to Algerian in the fall of 2003, and his ability to return to Canada to be reunited with his wife depends on the outcome of the trial. A second defendant, Mohamed Cherfi, was deported to the United States on March 5th 2004 after having sought sanctuary in a Quebec City church. Mohamed was refused status in Canada for being a committed and articulate leader of the non-status Algerians’ movement over the past two years. His involvement in the protest on May 29th was cited by several Immigration officials as the reason his application for landed status in Quebec was rejected. Mohamed is currently incarcerated in a New York State prison as he awaits the decision on his asylum claim in the US, and the response of Canadian Immigration officials to his application for permanent residence in Canada through a group of five sponsorship. If his claim is denied, as is the case with 95 % of asylum claims made in the US, he will be deported to Algeria where he faces great danger in light of his outspoken criticism of the Algerian government and his struggle for justice for all non-status Algerians in Canada.

What You Can Do

All the non-status defendants’ ability to remain in Canada where they have built their lives and struggled courageously for status depends on the outcome of this trial. They need YOUR support to win a victory that will not only remove one obstacle to gaining status but also make it clear to the Ottawa Police, the RCMP and Immigration Canada that the racist and brutal attack on non-status people demanding justice was the only criminal act that took place in Coderre’s office on May 29th 2003.

Here are ways you can demonstrate your solidarity and help the defendants win:

==> 1) Pack the Court Room: A full courtroom shows the judge that the defendants have widespread community support. Your presence will be greatly appreciated whenever you can make it, whether for an hour or for a full day.

==> 2) Provide Transportation: If you are driving from Montreal to Ottawa to attend court and have extra space in your vehicle OR if you are looking for a ride to attend court in Ottawa, please Let us know so we can coordinate rides. You can call (514) 813-1968.

==> 3) Financial Support: Over and above the cost of lawyers’ fees, we are trying to raise funds to cover the cost of trial materials, transportation of the defendants and the legal team to and from Ottawa, and other costs incurred by a trial that has already lasted three weeks, will now run for another two weeks and maybe longer. If you are able to donate money to help cover these costs, please make cheques out to the Libertas Legal Collective and mark “May 29th trial” in the memo field.

Please mail cheques to:
Libertas Legal Collective
C/o QPIRG Concordia
1500 De Maisonneuve Street West, Suite 204
Montreal, Quebec
H3G 1N1

[If you are sending a cheque, please let us know by e-mail or by phone:noii-montreal at or 514-813-1968.]

==> 4) Keep Informed: The trial support team will be sending out updates about the proceedings. If you would like to make sure you receive these updates, including notices of important courtroom solidarity days, please email noii-montreal at (Make sure to write “May 29th Trial” in the subject line.)

Thank you for your support. See you in court.

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