“To see this in our own backyard is unacceptable,” the former prisoners of Egypt say of 191 immigrants in an Ontario jail.
John Greyson, left, and Tarek Loubani, right, flank Tings Chak of No One Is Illegal at a news conference in Toronto on Monday.
By: Debra Black Immigration Reporter, Published on Mon Nov 04 2013
A little more than three weeks since they returned to Canada, Tarek Loubani and John Greyson — who spent seven weeks in an Egyptian prison without being charged — are demanding an end to what they describe as “unjust” indefinite detention of immigration detainees in Canada.
“Tarek and I have huge questions about what’s going on in our own backyards,” Greyson said at a Toronto news conference Monday in front of the federal courthouse on Queen St. W. “We’re critical of our own experience in Egypt, but to see this in our own backyard is unacceptable. The indefinite detention of all 191 (detainees in Lindsay, Ont.) raises a lot of questions about what we’re doing as a nation.”
Close to 200 immigrant detainees, some of whom have been in detention for as long as seven years because Canada cannot remove them — nor will they release them — held a protest and hunger strike to draw attention to their indefinite detention at the Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay earlier this fall.
Loubani, a London, Ont., emergency physician, and Greyson, a Toronto filmmaker and professor, want the Canadian government to abide by international law and limit immigration detention to 90 days. If immigration detainees aren’t deported by then, the two say, they should be released — as is the case in the United States or the United Kingdom.
“These detentions are arbitrary, indefinite, and that makes them unjust,” said Loubani.
Both men heard about the plight of the 191 detainees while they were still in Cairo preparing to come home, they said. The detainees’ story struck a chord with them, so they decided to speak out on their behalf.
On Monday morning, both men went to the Lindsay correctional centre to visit, along with relatives of detainees and activists from the End Immigration Detention Network, which is also calling on the Canadian government to remove or release detainees within 90 days.
Loubani tried to visit Amin Mjasiri, who has been on a hunger strike for 40 days, but was denied. Greyson said he visited a detainee who had cancer and another, a Sri Lankan, who was scheduled to be deported back to his homeland — a place he hadn’t seen since he was 9 years old.
“I can’t believe, as a human being and a refugee myself, that anybody would be held in Canada — which we want to believe is a just and fair society — indefinitely,” Loubani said.
Loubani and Greyson later returned to Toronto for a news conference drawing attention to the issue.
“This is unjust, and it’s unacceptable,” Loubani told reporters. “As a Canadian and a person being in jail myself, I can tell you one of the most devastating things is not knowing why you’re there or how long you’ll be there.”
Many detained immigrants become stuck in a catch-22. They may be refused travel documents from their country of origin, making it difficult to deport them. Or they may be deemed refugees under the United Nations Convention, but have criminal convictions in Canada that make them ineligible to become landed immigrants. Or they may be on a deportation list but can’t be sent back because conditions in their homeland have led to a moratorium on deportations, Syed Hussan, of the End Immigration Detention Network, told the Star’s Nicholas Keung.
“We call on the Canadian government and all Canadian citizens to support our call,” said Loubani. “Please release all these people from detention. Please make sure that Canada is, at the very least, not a rogue nation.”