Group pushes for action over indefinitely detained immigrants
GUELPH — Guelph will be among the Ontario sites of demonstrations planned for Tuesday to protest Canada’s current immigration detention policies.
Guelph-based migrant rights group Fuerza/Puwersa, meaning strength in Spanish and Tagalog, and similar groups have formed a coalition of immigrant justice associations. They’ve vowing to participate in coinciding protests Tuesday from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. in Guelph, Toronto, Kitchener, Sudbury, Kingston, London and Peterborough. Fuerza/Puwersa will be chanting and marching with a banner from city hall to MP Frank Valeriote’s office, where members will hand in a petition of 1,000 names calling for an end to indefinite immigration holding.
Immigrants deemed a flight risk while awaiting deportation are incarcerated by the Canada Border Service Agency. Toronto-based immigration consultant Mac Scott said in Canada, some current detainees have been jailed for more than five years while awaiting travel documents from countries of origin to be sent so that deportation can proceed. Scott said in many cases, the native countries of these detainees don’t want to take them back and travel documents are not sent, so they remain incarcerated.
He said the United Nations does not sanction indefinite immigration holding periods and the U.S. has a policy that immigration holds can only occur for 90 days before an individual case is solved.
To draw attention to this and other issues, immigration inmates at the Central East Correctional Centre, in Lindsay, Ont., have engaged in a series of hunger strikes since mid-September. These inmates have complained about being isolated from families, constant lockdowns due to short staff and allegedly inadequate access to medical care and social workers, among other issues.
Anna Pape, spokesperson with the Canada Border Service Agency, said in an email the agency is reviewing the demands of the prisoners but Canadian safety is the priority.
“The (Canada Border Service Agency’s) priority is to protect the safety and security of the Canadian public,” said Pape. “The Canada Border Service Agency is aware of concerns raised by immigration detainees housed at the Central East Corrections Centre and is working closely with provincial partners to address these concerns.”
Joshua Gilbert, a member of Fuerza/Puwersa, said the group went to the Guelph Air Park with a banner and petition to protest on Sept. 30. Finding a lack of Canada Border Services Agency representation, the group went to the Kitchener-Waterloo International Airport instead to pressure the agency into accepting the demands of the inmates.
“We went to the Canada Border Service Agency office to hand in a petition with 1,000 signatures asking to grant the demands of immigration hold detainees,” Gilbert says. “The petition was refused.”
Now, the group will look to Valeriote to assist them in taking the issue to the federal government.
Valeriote said he’s aware of the hunger striking at the Lindsay facility and will meet with Fuerza/Puwersa members.
“I welcome them and I’m happy to hear what they have to say,” says Valeriote. “I’m happy to bring the petition to Ottawa. That’s my job.”
Valeriote says he is investigating the conditions of the Lindsay detention centre and the Canada Border Service Agency must assure regulations are met.
“The (Canada Border Service Agency) that those that are detained have services like affordable phone calls, basic amenities, proper food and housing. Human treatment is fundamental to the prison system.”
Running Down the Walls
Running Down the Walls (RDTW) 2013 is quickly approaching! This year’s event will take place in Hamilton ON, and be held on Saturday, October 26th at the Workers Arts and Heritage Center on 51 Stuart Street, from 1-4pm. Everyone is welcome to come out in support of our imprisoned comrades and allies.
This international event is held every year in support of prisoners, and against the prison system that confines them. This year’s event is in support of North American political prisoners and (im)migrant prisoners across Ontario. The October 26th event will center the voices (im)migrants with experiences of incarceration in Canada.
You can participate in the event in a few ways:
Collect sponsorships to raise money in support of political prisoners and (im)migrant prisoners. Visit rdtw-north.com for the fund-raising forms.
Sponsor a prisoner who is participating in Running Down the Walls in support of political prisoners and (im)migrant prisoners. Visit rdtw-north.com for the list of prisoners participating in the event in support of (im)migrant and political prisoners.
Join us on October 26th from 1-4 p.m for free food, and speeches that focus on (im)migrant experiences of incarceration, and the experiences of long term political prisoners. During the event we will run/walk/bike/and roll 5 kilometers in support of our imprisoned allies.
This year’s fund-raising effort will be split between the ABCF Stipend program to support long-term political prisoners, and material support for (im)migrant prisoners in Ontario, which will be facilitated through Books to Bars Hamilton.
About Running Down the Walls:
Running Down the Walls (RDTW) began in 1999 at the Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary in Kansas. With the assistance of The Anarchist Black Cross Federation, the event’s aim was to raise financial support for people who have been imprisoned fighting for freedom and against injustice. Since its first run, RDTW has grown to be an international event held in many cities and prisons across Mexico, US and Canada. It has also come to represent so much more. Predicated on racial and social inequality, the (in)justice system and the prison industrial complex are inherently political in how they govern our lives, oppress our desires, and tear apart our communities. That is why people from the community join with prisoners to participate in a small, yet important act of solidarity that everyone can take part in. Most importantly, RDTW is an event to highlight the struggles faced by imprisoned people and to provide an avenue for their voices to be heard.
About the ABCF Warchest Program:
The Warchest Program: The Anarchist Black Cross Federation (ABCF) has initiated a program designed to send monthly checks to those Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War who have been receiving insufficient, little, or no financial support during their imprisonment. The Warchest program was initiated in November 1994. Its purpose is to collect monthly funds from groups and individual supporters, and send that money to Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War (PP/POW) via monthly checks. Over the last decade, the ABCF warchest has dispensed over $60,000 to political prisoners in the United States. Currently, there are eleven imprisoned comrades who receive a monthly stipend as part of the program; they are: Joseph Bowen, Russell Maroon Shoatz, Tsutomu Shirosaki, Alvaro Luna Hernandez, Herman Bell, Maliki Shakur Latine, Ruchell Magee, Sundiata Acoli, Hanif Bey, Sekou Kambui, Oso Blanco.
These prisoners are largely serving multiple decade or life-sentences for their involvement in defending their communities against racism, colonialism and State violence.
About Books to Bars (Im)migrant Support Program:
This program will work in collaboration with migrant justice organizations throughout Southern Ontario, prisoner support groups, (im)migrant organizations in the region, and local (im)migrants in and around Hamilton who have (family) experiences with incarceration.
Books to Bars (B2B) has spent a considerable amount of time developing a strategy for getting ESL/Alternative Language materials into Southern Ontario Prisons. At this point, they have developed a targeted strategy to outreach to and engage with imprisoned (im)migrants in Southern Ontario. a B2B will provide stock ESL reading materials to the various prisons and Detention Centres, provide essential legal material and establish personal contacts with people being detained, so as to solicit requests and provide individualized titles. An ongoing focus of the initiative will be to establish substantive correspondence with imprisoned migrants to better understand their unique struggles and needs.
This initiative comes on the cusp of a growing number of (im)migrant prisoner engaged the struggle to better their current conditions. After relocating nearly 200 imprisoned (im)migrants two hours away from Toronto (where most of their families and communities are located), the prisoners struck against the Central East Correction Centre (CECC) and against the dehumanizing condition they are expected to endure. United in struggle, they presented the jail and Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA) with a list of the most basic demands. These demands include better access to medical care and social workers, cheaper phone calls and access to international calling cards (many have family overseas), access to better food, like the food on the non-immigration ranges, an end to constant lockdowns, keep the improved canteen program going and better access to legal aid and legal services. Additionally, detainees are demanding that the CBSA grant specific requests to move individuals to facilities nearer to their families, legal resources, and social services.
Given that CBSA leases the cells from CECC and thus both aim to save money, these basics needs are even less accessible for imprisoned (im)migrants than they are for the general population. Until there are no more prisons and no more borders, we must stand in solidarity with those who are forced to struggle day to day for justice and dignity.
So this year, on October 26th you can participate in the 5k run/walk/bike and roll marathon in solidarity with others across North America both inside prisons and on the outside.
At the Workers Arts and Heritage Center, 51 Stuart Street, Hamilton from 1-4 p.m