REPORTBACK: Stop Jailing and Deporting Refugees, Let them Stay!

Posted by admin on Aug 25th, 2010

* For PHOTOS from across the country (courtesy NOII groups, VMC, AW@L):

On Saturday August 21st, close to 250 people gathered at the Vancouver Art Gallery on Coast Salish Territories as part of a National Day of Action to demand the release of detained Tamil asylum seekers and an end to racist and restrictive refugee policies. The march opened with a traditional opening as Indigenous Elders welcomed the Tamil asylum seekers to their territories and condemned the government and Jason Kenney. Speakers underscored the history of racist exclusion in Canadian immigration policy, the daily violence of detentions and deportations justified under the guise of ‘criminality’ and ‘security threats’, the commodification of migrants as exploitable labour in order to be deemed worthy, and how the hollow rhetoric of multiculturalism and inclusion unravels every time a boat of migrants challenges the Canadian state and its fortified border.

Premrajah Chelliah, a Tamil community activist, also described the military atrocities of the Sri Lankan government including mass killings, abductions, arbitrary detentions, destruction of homes and infrastructure. His own family was forced into camps during the incursions of last year. He highlighted the diplomatic and economic ties between the Sri Lankan and Canadian government, making Canada complicit in the horrors ‘over there’.

Several solidarity statements were shared during the rally, including by women who worked with the Fujiyan migrants in 1999; and powerful poetics were shared by Press Release Collective and these words by Wayde Compton:
when jurisdiction cuts the earth to the bone,
the proper diction is the unspoken issue, and the flesh
of the people’s colour in the boats in the hull in the belly of a dream
without papers or definition, in quotations, “refugee,” a penstroke
from relief. languishing in the languaged exile of illegalese.

While some chose to heckle the march with the predictable ‘send them back’, many on-lookers joined the march and chanted “Justice for Immigrants, Freedom for Refugees” and “No One Is Illegal, Stop Deporting People” alongside hundreds of others. A highly vocal and defiant march was led by Indigenous drummers and a banner with 490 painted hearts reading “We Say Welcome”. Hundreds of leaflets dispelling myths about the migrants, attached to hand-crafted flowers, were passed out to downtown shoppers. The march ended at the Citizenship and Immigration Canada offices, near the Vancouver Public Library, a complex which also houses detention cells and where migrants and refugees are shackled and held every single day.

Those gathered vowed to continue being visible and agitating till all migrants were released from detention, till our communities were safe from deportations, till we put an end to racism and anti-migrant xenophobia, and till our daily lives were fully rooted in liberation, self-determination, and the land.

(Some mainstream media articles in the Vancouver Sun, News 1130, and CKNW linked here)

==> Actions also took place across the country, with Montreal organizing a forthcoming action this Thursday August 26th from noon to 2 pm in front of Immigration and Refugee Board offices, Complex Guy-Favreau, 200 Boul. René Levesque.

In UNSURRENDERED WET’SUWET’EN TERRITORY (near Smithers, interior of so-called British Columbia), Indigenous allies held information pickets throughout their territories including the tourist site of Moricetown Canyon. According to Mel Bazil of the Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan nations and an Indigenous land defender resisting tar sands pipelines and tanker traffic on his territories: “We understand how the so-called First World and G8 countries dominate peoples from the Third World and Indigenous people all over. We know the consequences of racist and classist governments displacing our families and peoples from homelands. It is not up to the few wealthy and greedy populations to determine how the dehumanized and dispossessed populations will survive. We support the Tamil refugees and stand in solidarity with No One Is Illegal.”

In TORONTO, a 40 feet x 6 feet banner “Toronto Welcomes Tamil Migrants” was dropped over the Gardiner Expressway near Roncesvalles. “Kenney and Toews are using words like terrorists and human traffickers with absolutely no evidence” said Ryan Hayes of No One Is Illegal –Toronto. “They did the same thing when the refugee claimants arrived in October 2009, but had to accept that there was no truth to their assertions”. (Read a full Toronto report here)

In KITCHENER-WATERLOO, AW@L dropped a banner that read “Welcome Tamil Migrants” and demanded that the Tamil migrants who have arrived on the MV Sun Sea be immediately released from detention, that their rights be upheld, and that the racist criminalization of refugee claimants ceases immediately. Interview with Rachel Avery here.

In VICTORIA, nearly 100 people marched through downtown, blocking traffic on Government Road. “Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here,” the group chanted as cars were backed up nearly two-blocks into the downtown shopping core. The protesters decried the detention of 492 refugee claimants. “Today is about advocating for the rights of refugees to be treated with dignity and respect,” said Rose Henry from the Victoria Anti-Racism Network and is also an Indigenous and homeless rights activist.  Read news article “Supporters of Tamil Refugees Hold Downtown Protest in Victoria” here.

In OTTAWA Unceded Algonquin Territory, over 100 immigrants, Indigenous people and allies rallied outside the Citizenship and Immigration Canada offices. “From one community of resistance to another, we welcome you” said Pierre Beaulieu-Blais, an Anishnabe member of NOII-Ottawa to the enthusiastic crowd, “as people who have also lost our land and been displaced because of colonialism and racism, we say Open All The Borders! Status For All!” The crowd cheered for welcoming immigrants and refugees as people who are deserving of respect, dignity, and freedom of movement. As Jason Kenney, minister of Citizenship and Immigration, hid in his office under lock down and his spokesperson was lashing out at NOII, the crowd chanted “Jason Kenney Go Away – Tamil Migrants Here to Stay” and “No Borders, No Prisons – Stop the Deportations”. Families, students, Union representatives and other community members distributed hundreds of flyers to onlookers and people walking by, dispelling some of the myths about the Tamil migrants. Read a French news article here and article “Tamil supporters in Ottawa call for refugee ‘status for all’ here.

Over the past two weeks, NOII and our allies have engaged in a campaign to raise awareness about refugee rights, to dispel myths about migrants, and to challenge the blatantly racist and dehumanizing stereotypes about the migrants. The only crime the migrants have committed is transgressing this imposed settler-colonial border. We have organized rallies, produced factsheets, encouraged creative resistance, talked to hundreds of our neighbours and community members, released media and community statements, signed petitions, and dropped banners. We will not stop until the Tamil asylum seekers, and all migrants, are released from detention immediately and welcomed to lives of dignity and respect.

Join us in our ongoing mobilizing to reject repressive, racist, and exclusionary ideologies and policies, and instead encourage compassion, solidarity, respect for life, and justice for all refugees. We strive and struggle for a world in which no one is forced to migrate against their will. We also strive and struggle for a world where people can move freely in order to live and flourish in justice and dignity. Justice, Freedom, and Status for All!

We encourage you to put up our series of posters available here “Terrorized not Terrorist”, ‘Let them Stay’ and ‘Anti Neo Nazi, Fight Racism. Sign the online petition here. Distribute a myths and realities factsheet. Take your own initiative; many other ways to support are outlined here.


UK Guardian: Populist politicians seized on Tamil refugees to ramp up anti-immigrant rhetoric:

Vancouver Sun: Public rage against Tamil refugees has a nasty, xenophobic odour by Stephen Hume

Media Co-op: A Brief History of Anti-Migrant Hysteria in Canada by Fathima Cader:

Vancouver Sun: Why we should welcome boatful of Tamil refugees into Canada by Harsha Walia

Rabble: Reaction to the Tamil boat and Curious comparisons by Seth Klein

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