NOII-To: In defense of human smuggling, for the free movement of people.

Posted by admin on Dec 14th, 2010

It remains to be seen if Bill C-49, the newest anti-migrant bill introduced by the Harper government will become law. Even after public condemnation by nearly a 100 healthcare and religious organizations, concerned community, refugee rights, legal advocacy and environmental groups, as well as thousands of individuals signing petitions and writing letters, the Conservative government continues to push forward this racist legislation.

With no real support anywhere for Bill C-49, Stephen Harper spins blatant lies saying, “Canadians of all ethnic backgrounds, old Canadians, new Canadians, urban Canadians, rural Canadians’ want anti-human smuggling legislation”. (for a partial list of organizations opposing Bill C-49, click here)

Noticing the breadth of public outcry, the Liberals, the NDP, the Green Party and Bloc Quebecois have come out in opposition to this Bill. The Liberal Party declared that Bill C-49 “masquerades as human smuggling legislation” and “does not adequately target human smugglers”, with Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff stating that the bill “[punishes] the victims, and not the criminals”.

But the opposition parties, like the Tories, have refused to define “human smuggling”.

Throughout the political jockeying and the manufactured media circus that surrounded the arrival of the Tamil migrants aboard the Ocean Lady and the MV Sun Sea, “human smuggling” has consistently been framed as an unquestioned evil, a practice that must be combated through anti-smuggling legislation and criminal punishment.

We reject this presumption.

Migration is one form of resistance to the displacement, destruction, and desperation that the forces of war, environmental havoc and global capitalism produce across the world.

It is the creation, control, and policing of international/colonial borders that forces people to travel on foot, by air and by water, in the night, across torturous terrains, in dangerous conditions and using forged documents.

At a time when Canada shuts down most avenues to full immigration status, denies most refugee claims, exploits poor and working people of colour as temporary workers and tries to detain and deport its undocumented residents – we insist that human smuggling is not a crime.

Human smuggling is a time-honored tradition, enshrined in common practice and international law. For as long as governments have asserted control of mobility along their borders, people have sought assistance to cross them.

Whether it be Albert Einstein who fled persecution in 1935 with forged identification papers because of the support of those who would, today, be labeled human smugglers or the tens of thousands in the United States who, with the assistance of dedicated abolitionists like Harriet Tubman, navigated the underground railroad in order to find freedom from slavery – human smuggling has been commemorated and celebrated as an act of necessity, as an act of courage, as an act of resistance to persecution and injustice. Today, with great resolve, many communities and people around the world continue to support each other in attempts to migrate.

Any attempt to further criminalize human smuggling will ensure that migrants forced to move irregularly across borders will do so in more dangerous conditions, at higher cost and face further exploitation.

This is simply unacceptable.

We reject unconditionally the forced displacement and trafficking of people by states, by corporations and by people. We assert that those with a will to move be able to do so freely. In an era of systematic displacement and militant, racist immigration policy and practice, this assertion means we must continue to fight to create pathways for free movement, including just means of “human smuggling”.

It is not human smuggling that need be combated. It is the violence of immigration controls and displacement that must be targeted, struggled against, and defeated.

We insist: No One Is Illegal! Freedom to Move! Freedom to Stay! Freedom to Return!

Write to Liberal party leaders and to local media to insist that no further anti-human smuggling legislation should be passed. Demand that the rights of immigrants and the freedom of movement of people be respected!

Email:, Cc:

For details on how to take action:

Canada’s current anti-“human smuggling” laws:

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