illustration of 3 people looking upwards it reads "No human being is illegal. human beings can be beautiful or more beautiful, they can be fat or skinny, they can be right or wrong, but illegal? how can a human being be illegal? - Elie Wiesel"

By Felix and Shabina Lafleur-Gangji

Illustration by Favianna

When it comes to organizing a campaign, people often jump to holding a rally or coordinating some sort of public event. Public events are important but there are so many different strategies that come with organizing a successful campaign. 

The article aims to provide tools and ideas for organizing a campaign against someone’s deportation. However, these are only ideas. Each situation is different and so taking your time and weighing the pros and cons of different strategies is essential. We, as writers do not encourage or condone any particular action, our goal is to simply offer the information we know in order to organize actions as easily and safely as possible. We tried to include as much information as possible, however we understand that our experience is limited. And so, if you are considering organizing an action, we encourage you to speak with other organizers or search online to find resources to support you along the way. 

Know the Risk

Regardless of if you are the advocate or the individual who is at risk of being deported, it’s important to note that anything that is public carries a risk. CBSA and Citizenship and Immigration Canada can look at a public campaign and chose to take “compassion” on the individual or they can use the campaign to justify speeding up the removal. 

Before deciding whether or not to do a public campaign in response to someone’s deportation, it is important to have some knowledge surrounding where their immigration matter is at legally. 

For example, having an application with pending approval can, at times be a safety net if a campaign is held but is not successful in stopping a deportation. It is important that people have good communication with their lawyers during the campaign so they are fully aware of where their immigration status and applications are at. 

Any social media content or press coverage that uses the individual’s name is going to alert the authorities about the case. It’s also going to alert anyone who sees any press about the status of the individual, including employers. Sometimes for their own safety, people prefer to keep campaigns lowkey. This can mean hosting letter-writing campaigns or call-ins to the ministers and CBSA rather than public protests.

Each campaign is different and different people are willing to take different risks. It is important to set boundaries and decide what feels safest before going public.

Know Your Target

It’s important to direct your message to people who have the power to make the change you need. In regards to organizing against a deportation in Canada, you’re generally looking to target these three people:

1)The Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

This Minister specifically deals with arrest, detention, and removal. They have the power to release people from detention, grant temporary stays and intervene in removals/deportations. They are a good go-to if someone has a criminal record, is in immigration detention or have a warrant out for their arrest that is related to immigration.

2) The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

This Minister deals with everything under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. They have the power to initiate an intervention regarding a deportation and or grant someone status.

3) Your Member of Parliament (MP)

MP’s can raise the profile of your campaign and garner support from other MP’s in parliament. 

Make your Targets Aware of your Demands

Gather the contact information for each of your targets. All of their contact information is posted publicly online. From there, you can write them a letter, email, give them a call and/or @ them in your tweets and instagram posts. 

Sometimes campaigns will announce a set number of days where they ask that supporters call or email public officials in order to flood their methods of communication. This helps create a buzz and ensures the campaign is on their radar. 

If you are interested in flooding the emails or phone lines of public officials, it can be helpful to create a template. This template would offer supporters basic information about the individual in question and why they should be able to stay. Creating this makes it easier for people to confidently communicate to officials what the demands are in a campaign.  

Network

It is always important to reach out to other organizations, businesses and well-known people in order to build support for your campaign. If you find groups that are supportive of your cause, it is good practice to get these people to sign onto your demands and share media related to your campaign. If a strong relationship is built, it may be possible to co-organize actions which will increase the reach and capacity of your campaign. 

A great way to involve the people you have networked with is by creating a letter of support they can sign. The letter can then be posted publicly online and sent to officials. This list can grow as your campaign grows.

Create an Informational Sheet

Having a short informational sheet that gives readers a basic overview of the campaign helps get new people involved. These are useful to handout at talks, rallies, workshops or anywhere where you could gain additional support. An informational sheet can also be posted on social media sites. It’s important to keep your messaging concise and simple.

Make a Petition

Petitions are common in any sort of campaign for social justice. It should be known that for a petition to be read in parliament, there are specific requirements that one must follow. If you would like your petition to be read in parliament, look up the Public Petitions page from the House of Commons website under the House of Commons Procedure and Practice section. 

In addition, petitions to grant someone permanent residency are generally used for  humanitarian and compassionate claims (See “Pathways to Status” article for more on this claim). They urge the Minister to grant the individual in question permanent residency. If you are planning on creating a petition for a humanitarian claim, you need to make sure to get a significant amount of signatures (minimum 75-100). 

A typical format one would use for this type of petition would be the following. 


To: the Honourable Ahmed D. Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, and 
to: Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

We, the undersigned, sign this petition in support of ______________ application for Permanent Residency in Canada.

We confirm that we know ____________ and that they are valued members of our community, and we pledge our support to continue to help them to integrate and establish themselves in Canada.  

We understand that _______________ cannot go back  to _________. 

As such, we ask that you use your discretion under section 25(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and grant Mrs. Cardona Arias Cardona and her family Permanent Residency in Canada.

Sometimes campaigns will also create a symbolic petition (meaning it cannot be presented in parliament) to demonstrate the number of people in support of the campaign. A symbolic petition with many signatures makes a good statement. In this case, you print the petition out and bring it to a public action or hand it in to the office of individuals whose attention or response you are seeking. 

Run a Social Media Campaign

Creating a Facebook Page and including basic information about the case can be very useful. Make sure you include ways people can get involved such as: links to petitions, contact information for government officials you are targeting, information for upcoming rallies, brief description of your campaign and why it is important..etc. In order to grab people’s attention, it’s really useful to have at least one graphic specifically designed for your campaign. This graphic can be used by newspapers, circulated through instagram or used as a poster for rallies. Here are some examples of past graphics used:

It’s also really useful to create a hashtag. Simple hashtags like #LetYusufStay or #JusticeforYusuf are easy to remember. Try to stick to one single hashtag so you can keep track of actions and campaigns more easily. 

Once you have all the necessary information on the Facebook page; create your first post. This post should give readers basic information, include a graphic or video and will invite people to like and follow the page. It’s important to have all this information available before inviting people to like the page. 

When your page is ready, send an email to people you know who will support this campaign with the link and a personalized message asking them to post it on their social media pages. This will help spread the word faster. Friday and Thursday afternoons are the busiest times of the week when it comes to social media traffic and so, if possible, launch your campaign during these hours. 

It’s important to keep your readers up-to-date and to ensure your page stays in people’s newsfeed. You can achieve this by creating regular posts to update people, sharing news stories about the campaign and pictures and posts about upcoming or recent actions. 

Sometimes a social media campaign will involve a call out asking people to post a selfie with the hashtag on a specific day. 

Here’s an example: 

Create a Press Release 

See Article: Creating a Press Release

Organize Actions

There are many different ways that you can organize an action based on the amount of people you think will come, the risks involved and the timeline/frame. Some people choose to go directly to the office of the Minister who has the power to stop the deportation and addressing them there. They are usually not in their offices, but it can still create a stir when you go to the office directly. Others go to symbolic locations such as Immigration offices where hearings are held and decisions are made. Actions in public spaces with high foot traffic are also very useful as they will gather a lot of attention.

Types of actions

Projection Bomb

This involves putting a projection of an image related to your campaign on the side of a building. It’s generally considered pretty low risk.

Things needed for the action: 

  • A good quality projector with proper lighting to project your image
  • An electrical source
  • A good place for the projector to be placed. 

Usually takes some pre-planning to see what will work since you will need to play around with the angle of the projector to ensure the image is well placed. 

Banner Drop

Creating a large scale banner to drop in a location with high foot traffic can generate some attention. This can also be low risk depending on where you are dropping your banner from (being on private properties is riskier). Sometimes campaigns will organize a day where banners can be dropped in different cities at the same time to highlight awareness of the campaign. This can then be uploaded to social media. 

If you are doing a banner drop, it is important to ensure the banner will legible even when there is wind. Check out different methods of making banners online to ensure it doesn’t fly upwards and is weighed down safely.

Rally

A gathering of individuals in support of the campaign can be a great symbolic action especially when it is done is very public areas.

Some things you might want to include in the rally are:

  • An MC who addresses the crowd
  • A megaphone
  • Speaker(s) to inform the crowd about the issue (1-3 usually). It’s good to have a speaker who gives the broader context of the immigration system and the details of the situation. This can be the individual themselves or an advocate if anonymity is important. 
  • Depending on the context it may also be useful to have a legal advocate speak
  • Signs and placards for people to hold up to ensure you message come across
  • A designated person to speak to the media
  • Some rallies might have hot beverages or snacks for those in attendance

March

Usually, this involves taking over a street and collectively marching to a location to host a rally. If you are occupying a road you want to have marshals on both sides of the road to make sure that traffic is staying away from the individuals and control the direction of the march. If you are occupying a road without a permit for the march, it’s important to have a police liaison to speak with the police. A police liaison must be someone who understands the law, can remain diplomatic and can negotiate with the police officer. The goal of the liaison is to try to keep the people at the rally safe, to make sure no arrests are made and that there is a direct line of communication with the police and organizer of the march.

Some other aspects to consider during the march are to have:

  • An MC who addresses the crowd
  • A megaphone
  • 1-2 speakers before the march begins 
  • Lots of placards and signs
  • A few loudspeakers to lead people with chants. 
  • Noisemakers
  • A designated media spokesperson who can ensure the right message is coming across
  • Depending on your budget, you can also rent an accessibility van to ensure people with disabilities and elders are able to participate or a speaker system to ensure your message is loud and clear.

Blocking an Intersection or a Road

Some people choose to block a road or an intersection. In this case, people generally pick a location that is fairly busy and will cause a noticeable disruption. This type of action is high risk as the police will try to move you to ensure cars are able to reach their location. This means there is a higher risk of arrest, especially if the number of people attending is small. 

Generally for this type of action, an initial group of individuals will take over a road and then call for a larger group of people to come. This can mean a group of ten initial participants proceeded by a rally coming to join. Or, it can look like a section of a march splitting off to block a road and then inviting the rest of the march to join. Everyone has a different method of doing this. However, one thing is certain; the more people you have, the less likely you are to be arrested. 

Communicating the level of risk to participants is essential, especially if they don’t have status. Those who initially block the intersection are usually more at risk of being arrested than people who come after to attend. It’s important to have individuals you can trust in the initial group. Prepping these people should be done ahead of time so they are fully aware of the schedule, risk, and protocols.

It is not uncommon to have drivers get angry if the road is blocked. Speak with your group about what you will do if you are approached by an angry driver or if a car tries to pass through the roadblock.

For this type of action, it is crucial to have police liaisons as they can help negotiate with the police. Their role will be to keep the crowd as safe as possible and negotiate the length of time you are able to stay in the location. The longer you block the road, the more negotiating will have to be done with the police. Additionally, a longer stay often means a greater chance of arrest.

Sometimes people will have a legal team for this type of action who hand out legal clinic numbers or their personal numbers in case individuals are arrested and need to call a lawyer. 

Once the group has taken over the intersection, organizers will often immediately send out a press release to the media which has been prepared ahead of time. It will describe what is happening, why and how people can support along with media such as videos and pictures. You can also have a live video over Facebook or Instagram during this time and send out Tweets.  It is useful to have a designated media person to do this. This person can also encourage people in the group to share posts, write their own posts and take pictures. Another person can be designated to speak to the media that shows up to the road-block to ensure the right message comes across.

Some things to consider including for this action are:

  • Loudspeakers for chants
  • Having leaflets to hand out to drivers and pedestrians to let them know why you are there and what the demands are 
  • 1-2 MC’s
  • Speakers who can inform people about the issues at hand (the case, the immigration system, colonial borders, etc…) 

Storming an Office or Event 

Storming a location usually involves going to an office or speaking event where a prominent individual will be. Sometimes people prefer to take a small group of people to surprise the MP and/or Minister and list their demands. Other times people prefer to be more disruptive and arrive with banners, music makers and a group of people. One or two people will usually speak and list the demands being made. This does involve some research because, if you want to go and interrupt the MPs or even Ministers at their office, you need to make sure they are actually there. Ministers are often not at their offices and it’s important to not waste your time. 

Sometimes people go to events they know prominent people will be at and interrupt that person while they are speaking. Often people will hide banners under their coats of jackets and unfurl them during a speech. It is important to know ahead of time that whoever is speaking will likely getting kicked out or may get arrested.

Occupying  Space

This type of action usually involves going to a symbolic location and staying there until demands are heard. An example of this is when Black Lives Matter Toronto camped out in front of the Toronto Police headquarters. The occupation lasted two weeks and was done to pressure the police to lay charges on the officer who shot and killed Andrew Loku. 

For this kind of action, you will need a dedicated team of people willing to stay for the duration of the event, a police liaison and a media spokesperson present at all times. Depending on how long the occupation lasts you will need to think about food, drinks, first-aid kits, an on-site medic, security, sleeping bags, ways to go to the washroom, methods of charging your phone, etc…

This type of action takes a lot of work and is generally considered high risk. It can lead to arrests, especially if you are taking over an office or a building. Remember; if you are taking over a building or an office, you often will not be able to leave the office or building without being arrested. This means you have to consider a wide range of things including people’s safety regarding status, the medication they need, pet-care, etc.

People will generally ensure some members of their team are not present at the actual occupation. These people will be in charge or talking to the media, arranging other solidarity events, and generally getting the word out about the action.

Sustain the Campaign

Campaigns against a specific deportation often have a short timeline due to the set date of removal. During the campaign, it is important to be consistent. Hosting a different action every two days sounds great, however, if you become too tired by the end of the week then you have missed your goal. Make sure you create a plan ahead of time that ensures no one is too overworked and that you are able to continue to fight until a decision has been made.

Continue to Build Momentum

You can build momentum by raising awareness about the national and global context of immigration and borders across the world. If you are able to organize, connect and build relationships with other organizations, businesses and community members before anyone you know or love receives a deportation order, then you can more readily draw on their support and tools in the future. Workshops, panel discussions, and teach-ins are all great ways to connect.

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