Laibar Singh Safe in Sanctuary

Posted by admin on Jan 10th, 2008

 (important ways to support and UPCOMING EVENTS/ACTIONS, including cross-country are included below. Also see below for growing list of supporters.)

2181140376_6bd3b50d63.jpgAs people have likely heard by now, Mr. Laibar Singh was not deported on yesterday December 9th at 4:30 am and remains in sanctuary in Guru Nanak Sikh Temple in Surrey. The last minute notice of the deportation and the removal time of 4:30 am was a deliberate and under-handed attempt to thwart public outcry and support. At 4:00 am, approximately 300 supporters gathered to protest and bear witness to CBSA’s enforcement of a deportation in violation of sanctuary. In light of a major backlash for violating sanctuary and in the presence of hundreds of supporters, CBSA backed off from the deportation.

2181094434_6ef903eea2.jpgThe Surrey Guru Nanak Gurudwara has made clear to CBSA that Laibar Singh is in sanctuary in their premises. In having decided to enter temple premises yesterday or any date in the future, CBSA is breaching a historic moral tradition of sanctuary. Sanctuary is an act of courage that faith communities take to protect the lives of those facing deportation in light of unjust government decisions.

In a December 20, 2007 press release the Ontario Sanctuary Coalition stated “We reaffirm the regrettable necessity of the practice of granting Sanctuary… [Sanctuary] has now become a national movement of conscience.” Denise Nadeau of the Interfaith Sanctuary Coalition and Acting Director of the SFU Interfaith Summer Institute states “The deportation of Laibar Singh from sanctuary and in the face of massive public support for this man’s right to dignity and to live with his community is a fragrant violation not only of sanctuary but of the basic human rights of disabled persons, of asylum seekers and of the democratic will of a significant proportion of the population.”

In fact, a May 2007 report by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration whose members include MP’s Norman Doyle, Andrew Telegdi, Meili Faille, Omar Alghabra, Dave Batters, Barry Devolin, Raymond Gravel, Nina Grewal, Jim Karygiannis, Ed Komarnicki, Bill Siksay, and Blair Wilson, recommended the following to CBSA and CIC “That CIC, the CBSA, and law enforcement officials respect the right of churches and other religious organizations to provide sanctuary to those they believe are in need of protection… That in cases of MEDICAL EMERGENCIES (emphasis added), those who have sought sanctuary, and members of their family, be allowed to receive medical treatment without the threat that they will be arrested or detained.”

The August 2007 decision by CBSA to detain Mr. Laibar Singh while he was receiving emergency care and any future attempts by CBSA to detain Mr. Laibar Singh if he requires medical emergency care would clearly be in defiance and contravention of the government’s own recommendations.

Recent sensationalist media reports have attempted to question the significance of Mr. Laibar Singh’s medical condition. There is clearly no doubt that Mr. Singh is a severely disabled and paralyzed man. Immigration Canada’s own health assessments recognize the severity of Mr. Singh’s condition. Various doctors have dealt with Mr. Singh and have stated various causes of his paralysis; yet the basic issue remains the same: Mr. Singh is a severely disabled and paralyzed man who should be able to remain in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

As expected unfortunately, there has been a significant backlash yet again to the South Asian community and to refugee struggles in general. Pete McMartin at the Vancouver Sun (who previously had written about a $5 bet with his editor about the outcome of the case) has quoted Don DeVoretz, an advisor to the CBSA, as stating how past legal Charter victories which now afford some (minimal) protection to refugees have “bogged down the immigration process” and how it is negative and undesirable that with time a refugee is able to “to integrate oneself into the community.” The significant media scrutiny and questioning of this case and the South Asian community at-large has revealed the ways in which immigrant/racialized communities as awhole are constantly reminded of their subordinate position especially during moments of resistance to the Canadian state.

Finally, a growing list of supporters are demanding that Mr. Laibar Singh be granted permanent residency on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. These supporters include the Canadian Labour Congress, Hospital Employees Union, BC Coalition of People with Disabilities, Council of Canadians BC/Yukon Chapter, Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Multifaith Action Committee, Canadian Muslim Union, Ligue des droits et libertés du Québec, Association of Chinese Canadians for Equality and Solidarity Society, Student Christian Movement of Canada, Campaign for Democratic Media, Save our Rivers Society, Toronto Disabled Action Movement Now, Sikh Lawyers Association Toronto, Indigenous Free Skool, Solidarity Across Borders Montreal, No One Is Illegal Toronto, Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, Industrial Workers of the World, Vancouver Status of Women, La Surda Latin American Collective, Interfaith Community Consultative Committee of the SFU Interfaith Summer Institute, Students for a Democratic Society UBC, Halifax Coalition Against Poverty, Vancouver Catholic Worker, Immigrant Workers Centre Montreal, Canadian Youth Network for Asia Pacific Solidarity, Sudbury Against War and Occupation, Pakistan Cultural Association, Gurdwara Kalgidhar Sikh Society Abbotsford, Sri Guru Ravidass society Burnaby, South Asian Human Rights Group of Canada, Dasmesh Darbar Surrey, Canadian Singh Sabbha Surrey, Gurdwara Dukhnivaran Surrey, Holy Satsang Foundation Surrey, Akali Singh Sikh Society Vancouver, BC Hindu Mandir Burnaby, Khalsa Diwan Society New Westminister, B.C. Khalsa Darbar Society, Gurudwara Khalsa Darbar Vancouver, Fraser Valley Hindu Temple Abbotsford, Guru Nanak Sikh Temple Surrey. Individuals such as Michael A. Leitold of the Law Union of Ontario Steering Committee, Janet Cleveland who holds the Canada Research Chair in International Migration Law, noted authors and researchers Naomi Klein and Seth Klein, Professor Emeritus Roy Miki (Order of Canada), Kader Belaouni who has been in sanctuary in Montreal since Jan 2006, Sister Elizabeth Kelliher of the Fransican Sister of the Atonement, labour activists such as Dave Bleakney of CUPW and Frank Lee of CUPE, academics such as John Price, Nandita Sharma, Cynthia Wright, Gary Kinsman, Rita Wong, and Mary Jo Nadeau, and Rabble Editor Derrick O’Keefe have also lent their support to Mr. Singh.

It is also important to note that Mr. Singh’s case is not unprecedented. In October 2006, a Polish family on tourist visas in Winnipeg suffered from a car accident that left the father paralyzed. Initially they were refused; however their deportation order was subsequently overturned. Ministerial discretion in humanitarian and compassionate claims can and has been exercised in the past to stop deportations; in fact it exists for that very purpose.

We believe it is unfortunate that some are declaring that he must leave because he does not “belong” any longer, despite the fact that his newly found family and community are here. Certainly his physical state of paralysis and the widespread community support he has received are all crucial factors and realities for Mr. Singh. He, like anyone else, should be entitled to live a healthy and dignified life.

We must challenge the idea that some are more worthy than others to decide their right to mobility and their assertion of self determination; instead we should accept these as universal values 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 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 that 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!
For more information call 778 552 2099 or email
For an excellent backgrounder visit Communities For Laibar Singh:


1) Please attend the community forum in support of Laibar Singh and on broader issues of migration and race with speakers lawyer Zool Suleman, representatives of the Canadian Labour Congress and Hospital Employees Union, theologian Denise Nadeau, and South Asian community organizers Gurpreet Singh and Gurvinder Dhaliwal.

Details: Saturday Jan 12th at 5:45 pm at Vancouver Public Library.
Organized by Communities for Laibar Singh. Call 604 779 7430.
Further details are available at:

2) Please write letters to the editor, post online, or call into radio shows into the various media outlets that are covering this story. We strongly urge and stress to supporters the importance of voicing your opinion on this issue and adding your thoughts to the very public debate on Laibar Singh and immigration in general. Although it may seem futile and given the biases that have been clearly stated by various media outlets, it is still absolutely crucial for us to enter this public debate and discourse at this time.

3) Please stay in tune for details on an upcoming vigil in support of Laibar Singh as part of a National Day of Action in Support of Laibar Singh along with allies in Montreal, Toronto and other cities.

*** Our allies in Toronto with No One Is Illegal Toronto, Sikh Activist Network and their supporters are organizing a delegation and press conference in support of Laibar Singh. Details: FRIDAY JAN 11 at 10am at 25 St. Clair Avenue East, Toronto (Immigration Canada Regional offices. Please visit for more details.

4) Please continue to pressure Immigration Minister Diane Finley. We realize that most of you are probably flooded by letter-writing campaigns or find letter-writing futile. However, it is CLEAR that the government has been forced to respond to an unparalled amount of support and pressure and it is time that they get the message and grant Mr. Laibar Singh a permanent stay on his deportation order. If you have called or written before, please do so again!

* CALL (PREFERABLE): (613) 996-4974
* FAX: (613) 996-9749
* EMAIL: minister at and Finley.D at

* CALL: 613.995.1702 or 250.770.4480
* FAX: 613.995.1154 or 250.770.4484
* EMAIL: day.s at or days1 at

======> SAMPLE LETTER <========

Minister Finley and Minister Day,

Regarding: Laibar Singh

I am writing regarding the situation of Mr. Laiber Singh. I am sure that you are aware of the case of the paralyzed Punjabi refugee claimant Mr. Laiber Singh, who is currently facing deportation .  A wide variety of human rights organizations, disability advocates and community groups have also expressed their support for Mr. Singh’s bid to remain in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. These groups include the Canadian Labour Congress, BC Coalition of People with Disabilities, B.C Hospital Employees Union, the Multifaith  Action Committee, and a long list of South Asian community groups and gurudwaras.

Over the past few months, approximately forty thousand people have signed an Official petition to Parlimament in support of Mr. Singh remaining in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

On October 9, 2007, a group of health care professionals- including 13 independent doctors- issued a letter to Immigration Minster Diane Finley stating, “As health professionals, we are outraged at the fact that the Canadian government would consider deporting a paraplegic man, whose health condition is extremely fragile… For the sake of his safety, health and well being, we fully support him and demand that [the Minister] grant him permanent residency status on the basis of humanitarian and compassionate grounds immediately.”

It is outrageous that the Canadian government would deport a man who is already struggling to life a live of dignity and autonomy, and whose physical health is so fragile.For the sake of his own safety, for the well-being of his physical health, and based on the life that Mr.Singh has already established, I fully support him and demand that you stop the deportation of Mr. Laibar Singh immediately and grant him permanent residency status. I also urgently request that the Canadian government and CBSA officals respect the sanctity of sanctuary that the Guru Nanak Sikh temple have granted to Mr. Laibar Singh and not attempt to remove Mr. Singh from sanctuary or detain him if he requires urgent medical attention
at a medical facility.


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