Know Your Rights

A Guide to Immigration Arrest, Detention and Deportation & Your Rights At Home, On The Streets And At Work

By: The Immigration Legal Committee

WHO IS AT RISK OF IMMIGRATION ARREST, DETENTION AND DEPORTATION?

You may be at risk of immigration arrest, detention and deportation if any of the following situations apply to you:

  • Your visitor, worker, student or live-in caregiver visa has expired
  • You haven’t followed all of the terms and conditions on your visa
  • You made a refugee claim that was denied and your Pre-Removal Risk Assessment (PRRA) was also denied
  • You received a date for your deportation but didn’t leave Canada
  • You entered Canada without showing any papers to Canadian immigration officers
  • You haven’t followed the terms and conditions of a release order from detention or terms and conditions you signed with an immigration officer
  • There is an immigration warrant for your arrest

There may also be other situations that put you at risk of immigration arrest. If you think you might be at risk, contact a lawyer or immigration consultant.

If you’re already in detention see the last section of this guide, GETTING LEGAL HELP WHILE IN DETENTION, for more information.

ABOUT THIS GUIDE

This guide aims to provide basic legal information to people without immigration status so that they will be able to better protect themselves from the risks of immigration arrest and detention.

When does an immigration warrant get issued?

If you miss an appointment with Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) a Canada-wide warrant will be issued for your arrest. Appointments include regular reporting; a special “call in notice” to receive a decision; or even an actual date at the airport for your deportation. People may not know that they’ve missed an appointment if CBSA has sent a letter to an old address. That’s why it’s important to make sure that CBSA and CIC have your current address.

CBSA can also issue warrants if they believe you should not be in Canada and are a danger to the public.

Submitting either an application for permanent residence on humanitarian and compassionate grounds (an “H&C application”) or an application for spousal sponsorship will not necessarily prevent your deportation. If you have submitted one of these applications, make sure to discuss with your lawyer or immigration consultant how it affects your immigration status.

The Limits of this Guide

Legal rights only go so far. The Canadian government is making it harder for people to obtain permanent resident status in Canada. This means that many people live here with precarious immigration status or without any status at all, often working and living in exploitative conditions. Despite the rights set out in this guide, people without status are at risk of arrest, detention and deportation.

The Importance of Collective Action

While it’s useful to be aware of your legal rights, laws are designed to remove people without immigration status from Canada. We have to continue to organize, mobilize and fight back against immigration detention and deportation that tears apart families and communities. Political victories are possible. Communities working together have stopped deportations and have successfully campaigned governments to grant immigration status to large groups of undocumented people.


Two Things You Can Do Right Now If You Don’t Have Immigration Status

  1. Develop a strategy of what you will do if confronted by an immigration or police officer at home, in the street or at work.The rest of this guide will help you plan a strategy that best fits your situation.
  2. Make a safety plan in case of arrest. This plan may help you get out of detention faster and may reduce the stress of being arrested. You can use the following checklist to make sure your safety plan is as complete as possible.

Safety Plan Checklist:

  • I have the number of a trusted lawyer or immigration consultant
  • I have given a spare set of house keys to someone I trust and who can access my important paper tell others living at my house what has happened
  • I have found someone who can contact my lawyer, take care of my children or other family members, tell my work about my absence, be a bondsperson for me
  • I have found support from religious or community organizations, neighbours, and other allies who can rally together to help me get out of detention
  • I have given my immigration client ID to trusted friends and family so that they can give it to the lawyer to locate me if I’m detained
  • I have read the rest of this guide and know what strategy I will use if confronted by immigration or police officers

1. Bondsperson A bondsperson is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident who is 18 years or older and who can help guarantee my presence at an immigration hearing by putting down a deposit and/or promising that they have enough income to pay a certain amount of money if I don’t show up

2. Community Action Plan. Communities continue to organize everyday to protect themselves and their members from immigration raids. This US resource may be a good resource to help prepare for a large-scale raid in Canada: www.nilc. org/ce/nonnilc/raids_ checklist firm_2007-04. pdf


Where will they take me?  

If you’re arrested in Toronto and you don’t have criminal charges or a criminal record, then you will most likely be taken to the Immigration Holding Centre at 385 Rexdale Blvd.

If you do have criminal charges or a criminal record, then you will most likely be taken
to a provincial jail. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to know for certain which one you will be taken to.

What will happen to my children when I’m in detention?
If you’re in immigration detention but have children who are Canadian citizens, your children have a right to remain in Canada. However, their immigration status will NOT prevent your own deportation.

If you have no one to care for your children, they may be able to stay with you at the Immigration Holding Centre, but this is not possible if you’re detained in a provincial jail. Once your children are in the detention centre with you, you can ask to have them released at any time if there’s someone who will care for them. If your children also don’t have status in Canada they will likely be detained with you.

What should I do if an officer comes to my home?
Strategy 1: Exercising your RIGHT TO PRIVACY at home

The RIGHT TO PRIVACY means that, in general, officers aren’t allowed to enter your home. But they can legally enter your home if you invite them in, or if the officers have the TWO necessary warrants.

How you can exercise your RIGHT TO PRIVACY at home:

  • When officers knock on your door and identify themselves you can ask them what they want through the door. If you open the door the officers may force their way in
  • They are likely to say they have come to make an immigration arrest.
  • You can then exercise your RIGHT TO PRIVACY in this way:
  • Do NOT open the door
  • Ask (through the door) to see the TWO
  • warrants they must have with them to make an arrest inside a home: (1) the immigration arrest warrant and (2) a special warrant that lets them enter a home to make an arrest (it’s called a “special entry” warrant or “Feeney” warrant)
  • Ask them to slip the warrants through the mailbox or under the door
  • If the warrants don’t fit, open the door a little in order to take them and then close the door again
  • Make sure that there are TWO separate warrants, and that they are dated and signed
  • Ensure that the person named on the warrants is in the house. If they only have one warrant, or there’s a mistake on the warrants, you have the right to tell them they need a second warrant or that the information on one or both warrants is incorrect
  • Then ask them to leave (without opening the door)

3. Immigration enforcement is carried out by officers from the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) or by police officers. The following is not legal advice but information based on your rights under the law, but note that officers don’t always obey the law!


What happens if officers come to my shelter?
For a brief period of time there was a policy in Toronto that directed officers not to enter shelters that served survivors of domestic violence. In February 2011, that policy was removed.

So it’s a good idea to ask staff at your shelter to find out how they deal with immigration and police officers. If you think your shelter might report you to CBSA if you ask these questions, then have a friend who has immigration status ask for you.

What if the officers have the TWO necessary warrants and ALL the information is correct?

  • If this is the case, the person named on the warrant may choose to leave the house and get arrested
  • This may protect others inside the house who may also be at risk of immigration arrest
  • Or, you may choose to continue to exercise your RIGHT TO PRIVACY and wait until the officers force their way inside your home

Advantages of continuing to exercise your RIGHT TO PRIVACY at home:

  • It may take some time before the officers decide to force their way in. This may give you time to contact a lawyer and make any necessary arrangements

Disadvantages of continuing to exercise your RIGHT TO PRIVACY at home:

  • Once the officers are in your house, they may arrest others who also don’t have valid immigration status
  • If they eventually do arrest you in your house, the officers could prepare a report that says that you didn’t cooperate at the time of arrest. This may be relied on at a “detention review” hearing to say that you shouldn’t be released

Strategy 2: Exercising your RIGHT TO SILENCE at home

The RIGHT TO SILENCE means that you do NOT have to speak to an officer in any situation, unless you’ve already been arrested or detained. How you can exercise your RIGHT TO SILENCE at home:

  • When officers knock on your door, you can simply stay silent
  • If the officers don’t have the TWO necessary warrants that they need to enter your home, they may go away
  • If the officers do have the necessary TWO warrants, they can force their way into your home

Advantages of exercising your RIGHT TO SILENCE at home: If the officers don’t have the TWO necessary warrants, or don’t think you’re there, they may leave

  • If the officers don’t have the TWO necessary warrants, or don’t think you’re there, they may leave
  • This may give you time to contact a lawyer about your legal options and to make any necessary arrangements

Disadvantages of exercising your RIGHT TO SILENCE at home:

  • If the officers have the TWO necessary warrants they can force their way in, and then arrest others in your house who also don’t have valid immigration status
  • If they eventually do arrest you in your house, the officers could prepare a report that says that you didn’t cooperate at the time of arrest. This may be relied on at a “detention review” hearing to say that you shouldn’t be released
  • Even if the officers do NOT have the
  • necessary warrants, BE AWARE that physically preventing the officers from entering your home may lead to criminal charges. If you decide to inspect the war- rants, you should be aware that anything you say may be used against you at a detention review hearing.

What can I do if an officer stops me while I’m walking in the street, in a shopping mall, in the park, or in any other public place?

If you don’t have immigration status, an officer can arrest you with or without a warrant. Be aware that resisting arrest could make your immigration situation worse and could lead to criminal charges.

What can I do when an officer tries to arrest me WITH a warrant?

  • If an officer claims to have a warrant for your arrest, you have the right to ask to see it
  • Make sure that you’re the person named on it, and that it is dated and signed
  • If there is a mistake on the warrant or any information is missing, point that out to the officer
  • If the officer still arrests you, make sure that you tell your lawyer about the incor- rect warrant

What can I do when an officer tries to arrest me WITHOUT a warrant?

  • If you get stopped by officers who don’t have a warrant for your arrest, it may be because they have illegally targeted you due to your race, background, or because the language you’re speaking is not English or French
  • The officers will then start to ask you questions about your immigration status
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  • Even though you have a right to silence if you’re not driving a car or riding a bike, you may choose to identify yourself with your name, address, and date of birth, as officers can arrest someone without immigration status if they don’t believe that you’ve identified yourself correctly
  • The officers may ask you lots of other questions—like how long you’ve been in Canada and how you got here. They want to
  • null
  • find out whether you’re here with valid immigration status or not. If they determine, based on your answers, that you’re here without status, then they can arrest you without a warrant
  • If you’ve already identified yourself to the officers, and they keep asking you questions, you do NOT need to answer them. You could ask the officers, “Am I being detained or am I free to go?”
  • Eventually they will either arrest you or they’ll let you go
  • Walking or running away while they’re questioning you may lead to criminal charges

3. If there is already an outstanding warrant for you the officers will find it if they do a computer check as immigration warrants are also registered in a – police database called the Canada Police Information Centre (CPIC) – in which case the officer will detain you at this time.


Developing your own strategy

The current immigration laws make it easy for an officer to arrest a non-status person without a warrant. That’s why it’s a good idea to talk to family, friends, community organizations, and especially other people who don’t have immigration status about the best ways to avoid arrest in public places.

Sample dialogue: What you may choose to do when an officer tries to arrest you without a warrant

Officer: You, there. Stop for a minute please, I’d like to ask you some questions. 
You: I’m in a bit of a hurry. Do I have to stop and talk to you?
Officer: I’d like you to. Listen, where are you from?
You: I know that I have a right to silence, but I’m going to give you my name, address and date of birth to help you do your job.
Officer: Sure. But I’m actually wondering where you’re from?
You: My name is John Doe. I live at 35 Riverdale Ave. My date of birth is June 29, 1982.
Officer: Thanks. When did you arrive here? You (as politely as possible): I’ve identified myself to you. If you’re not detaining me, I’d like to leave.
Officer: Just a minute. Where did you say you were from again?
You: Am I being detained?
Officer: Did you come here on a work visa or a visitor visa?
You: Am I being detained?
Officer: You’re not being detained. You’re free to go.

There are a few different ways that an officer may not be “satisfied” with your identification:

  • If you refuse to answer any questions about your identity
  • If you’re carrying false identification documents
  • If you’ve already identified yourself to the officers, and they keep asking you questions, you do NOT need to answer them. You could ask the officers, “Am I being detained or am I free to go?” Eventually they will either arrest you or they’ll let you go
  • If the officer suspects that you aren’t telling 4the truth about your identity

What can I do if an officer stops me while I’m in a car or on a bike?

  • If you’re driving a car (or you’re on a bike) you must show your identification to the officer
  • If you’re a passenger and not the driver, you have the same rights as if you’re stopped in a public place (see the previous page)
  • If you don’t have immigration status, driving puts you at high risk of being detained as a result of traffic stops by police
  • For example, if the police pull you
  • over for speeding or if the police are illegally profiling you based on your race, they may learn of an immigration warrant when they run a check on your driver’s license or name and date of birth through their database
  • Also, if they can’t find any record of you on any database, they may hand you over to CBSA

What if an officer comes to my work?

  • You may be at risk of immigration arrest if you’re working somewhere without a valid work permit, or if the place you’re working is not the same place named on your work permit. Both situations are illegal under Canadian immigration law (despite what your recruiter may tell you)
  • Whether the officers enter your work- place or wait for you outside, they will be able to question you in the same way that they can in a public place, and this may lead to your arrest
  • In general, don’t rely on your recruiter for legal advice as they profit from immigrant workers. Recruiters often advise people to contact representatives from their countries (at consulates or embassies) if they run into immigration problems, but contacting representatives from your country may actually speed up your deportation
  • If you have a trusted co-worker you may wish to give them contact information for family members or a lawyer in case you’re arrested at work

What rights do I have at my job as a migrant worker?

Various laws in Ontario are meant to protect workers, such as how much you should be paid, how you can be fired, how much vacation pay you should get, and how you can get money if you’ve been injured on the job.

These laws apply to anyone working in Ontario, including all migrant workers— whether they’re working with a valid work permit or not. But if you try to enforce your rights, and you’re not working under a valid work permit, your boss may report to you to the CBSA for not having a valid work permit.

Legal help for migrant workers If you’re a migrant worker living in Toronto without immigration status who is owed money by your boss, you should contact the Workers’ Action Centre (www. workersactioncentre.org or 416-531-0778).

They are an amazing organization that fights to improve the working conditions of people in low-wage and unstable employment.

If you live in Ontario (but outside of Toronto), you may contact a local Legal Aid Ontario community legal clinic to see if they can assist you with your work-related legal problems (visit www.legalaid.on.ca for a list of community legal clinics.

Please note that most community legal clinics do not practice workers’ rights or immigration law. But they may still be able to provide you with referrals to lawyers who do practice in these areas.

GETTING LEGAL HELP WHILE IN DETENTION

Toronto Refugee Affairs Council (TRAC) :If you’re being held in Toronto at the Immigration Holding Centre (which is usually referred to as “Rexdale”) you can request the assistance of TRAC for legal information. TRAC operates an office at the Immigration Holding Centre Mondays to Thursdays. Their telephone number is 416- 401-8537.

Refugee Law Office (RLO) :An RLO staff member goes to the Immigration Holding Centre (385 Rexdale Blvd) in Toronto on Tuesdays and Wednesdays as part of TRAC. You can call them at 1-800-668-8258 or 416-977-8111.

The RLO also provides people with legal advice and representation to persons detained at the Immigration Holding Centre, Toronto West Detention Centre, Vanier Centre for Women and Central East Correctional Centre (known as “Lindsay”). Staff members also give summary legal advice by telephone to immigration detainees calling from other detention centres in Ontario.

KEY LEGAL INFO FOR DETAINEES

  • Do not sign any papers without first speaking to a lawyer because you may be giving up your rights to pursue an application to stay in Canada, such as a Pre-Removal Risk Assessment (PRRA)
  • However you should note that CBSA has argued that refusing to sign papers (even if it’s to speak to a lawyer first) shows that the person is uncooperative and therefore should not be released from detention
  • As a result, it is useful to have a lawyer pre-arranged in case you’re arrested and to speak to them quickly
  • Do not rely on CBSA Officers to pro- vide you with accurate legal advice
  • Ask for an interpreter if you don’t under- stand what’s being said to you
  • You have a right to contact your embassy or consulate, but you may not want to if you fear the government of your home country
  • For more information on immigration detention, refer to the fact sheet “Being arrested and detained for immigration reasons”:

Disclaimer
This guide is for informational purposes. It is NOT legal advice.

About the Authors:
The Immigration Legal Committee (ILC) is a Toronto-based group of law students and legal workers. We support community organizations and grassroots campaigns that advocate for immigrant and refugee rights by providing legal education workshops and by creating community resources such as this guide. We don’t provide legal advice or representation.
The Immigration Legal Committee (ILC) is a sub-committee of the Law Union of Ontario (lawunion.ca) and No One is Illegal- Toronto (toronto.nooneisillegal.org).

For more information about us or to book a workshop, contact:

immigrationlegalcommittee@gmail.com.

For an online printable version of this document, visit: toronto.nooneisillegal.org.

The authors thank all individuals and organizations that assisted in the production of this document.

Tips for Organizing an Anti-Deportation Campaign

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.

Preparing: What happens if we don’t win?

black and white flower

By Mohammed, Theodore and Richie  

Preparing: What happens if we don’t win? 

In 2018, CBSA reported that 6,083 people had been deported from Canada. It’s a startling number. Even with all the collective community resistance, deportations are continuing to happen. Although this special issue of The Peak is focused on resisting deportation, we felt it was important to include the stories from those who have lived through the traumatic experience of deportation and recount how they have adjusted to life since then. If you or someone you know is facing deportation, we encourage you to fight. Resist! Find community advocates, contact local or national organizations or start a campaign. Remember, there is strength in our numbers.  

Mohammed. Somalia. One year and four months since deportation. 

The first thing I did when I got my deportation notice was contact a lawyer to review and take my case. Since my criminal matter was dealt with through legal aid, and I was no longer a Canadian issue, (they stripped me of my convention refugee status and permanent residence) I was unable to retain legal aid and every other lawyer was charging fees. I went through racism, discrimination and humiliation every video court.They thought they could break my spirits but it only made me stronger.  

I have seen a lot of people lose it and go crazy and check themselves in protected custody or suicide watch. You have to be mentally strong to withstand them courts. Being a kid from Canada, who never left Toronto since the age of seven, there was no way to prepare myself for a third world country. I couldn’t prepare because they never gave me any notice; I was forcefully dragged out of a jail cell in the morning and assaulted all the way to another jail cell. I was then put on a flight where I co-operated and was not handcuffed at all. This all happened in a week. My emotions were running wild because I knew deep down that this was all illegal, but I’m just a Black youth who is no longer a Canadian issue.  

The thing is, I’ve lived in Toronto my whole life; I have no family in this country, my faith is what keeps me strong everyday. I would have never been prepared for this place. I didn’t want to be another deportee statistic and that’s when I realized that education is the key.  

The moment I came here [Somalia] I started university by taking an international relations course. I am trying to make a positive outcome from my negative upbringing and show the world that you can change. I don’t want to be angry at the system and honestly I’m not, it shaped me to change my ways. I can never be sour and mad at Canada; it will always be my home, it’s all I know.  

Theodore. Jamaica. Two years and six months since deportation. 

The first thing I did when I got my deportation order was get in contact with my family and friends back home. I had to try to figure out what steps I could take to help my case. I contacted my mother back home and I started asking questions about what’s like there, what to expect when I get there and help to find a place to stay.  

When I arrived, I started working, playing sports, going to school and trying to figure out how to better my life by having something positive to do. I have been able to integrate into daily life by working, school, farming and getting to know people here.  

I would advise anyone who gets a deportation notice to first get in contact with their family and figure out what steps they can take to help there try to get in a program. Also try your best to cooperate with immigration. 

Richie. Nigeria. Three years since deportation. 

I was not in the right mindset when they sent me the notice. I was very scared because I had not been to my country of origin since I was eight years old. So I hid from the law, but I did it in the wrong way. I was not ready to leave when they picked me up, so I called my people to get me some items that I could be prepared when I landed in Nigeria. Weird thing is the people who brought me my travel stuff came from out of nowhere; I just met them while being deported.  

To adjust, I had to just accept the fact – I was now on my own.  I knew absolutely nobody, I couldn’t speak the language or even understand it. Everyone that saw me knew I was a foreign national; when I spoke they assumed I was a black American (white African). My adjustments were not easy. The change of climate, extreme heat, and even my dress code was not Nigerian. I have not told anyone my real reason for being here because it could get me hurt, alienated or even lead to my death. I’ve met a lot of people who are happy to see me; my popularity has gone viral.  

Eventually, I integrated; I’ve learned small linguistics of my people (Igbo) and some Yoruba. Because of my wide range of skills and knowledge, I have been working for two years now. It is not a lot of money, but I’ve managed to get my own place to live. Money is extremely necessary in order to live here. If you have no money or people don’t know you, then you go hungry. If I wasn’t me and didn’t do what I do, I would be dead by now.  

If you are on the move or just got your notice – I beg you to try in your best power to stay where you are and do whatever it takes to resist your deportation. Life is for real out in these third-world countries, especially if you have no one you know who can vouch for you. But, if it is your lot in this life, then I recommend you learn handy work and get in the work field.  

God brought me home because my mother was dying and she begged for one thing – to see her first born once more before she left this earth. I’m trying for a pardon next year because I want to travel out if I see money, find a link to another country. Or else, I will just rest out my days here in my mother nation and fathers’ land.  

I have two siblings whom I have been building a relationship with. Life, if treated right, will reward us but everyone has their problems; may God keep them all safe. I love you all, my people. Look me up on Facebook Chinedu Abuwa. Wadado wadado! Stay safe, live life and love yourself ‘cause some people don’t care who you are, where you’re coming from. They will only care about what you can give them. 

Best wishes and good luck, I’m out! 

Speaking with an Organizer: Leroi Newbold

Black and white infographic of pregnant black woman. The picture reads "Stop the Deportation of Beverley Braham. Beverley Braham is being deported to Jamaica on Friday! Beverley is 31 weeks pregnant and married to a Canadian citizen. What can you do? Contact your MP! contact the minister of public safety Ralph Goodale (613) 947 1153. Contact the president of Canadian Border Services Agency John Ossowski (613)-952-3200 #blacklimmigrantlivesmatter"

Interviewed by Temi Boyede 

Please introduce yourself and how you came to organize against deportations 

Leroi: I am LeRoi Newbold and I started organizing against deportation when I was a member of BlackLivesMatter-Toronto. I was driving to work one day, when I heard about Beverley Braham’s case on the radio station, G98.7. I heard that Beverley was 8 months pregnant and that she was being deported despite being married to a Black Canadian man. I immediately thought that somebody must organize to stop this.  It’s horrific to think that somebody could be deported while 8 months pregnant, especially because there were complications with her pregnancy.  

I called the radio station to ask for Beverley’s contact information and I got the number for her lawyer. We started organizing an online campaign to put pressure on the safety minister to stop Beverley’s deportation. This resulted in hundreds of people calling his office to demand that she be allowed to stay in Canada. We also held a demonstration where we blocked a busy intersection during rush hour to bring attention to Beverley’s case. We connected Beverley’s case to the history of the Canadian state’s attack on Black families through the trans-atlantic slave trade and domestic worker schemes. My dad was also deported from Canada when he came here in 1983; so I’m motivated to fight for justice around deportations.  

Did you work with an(y) organizations to meet your goals? Why or why not? 

After we learned about Beverley’s case, we started researching to see who the ministers in charge of deportations were. We then learned that the safety minister is the one who would have the power to stop a deportation. So, we started an online campaign that targeted the safety minister and the immigration minister. Like I mentioned above: we encouraged people to call in and make complaints about this young Jamaican woman who was being deported. Our communities collectively won a 3-month-stay for Beverley. During that time, her child was born in Canada. After her birth, the Canadian state tried to deport Beverley again but she did not give up and eventually she got her permanent residency in Canada. 

What kinds of things should people looking to support those at-risk of deportation know before they engage in this type of work?  

If you are looking to support someone who is facing deportation, know that you can win! Speak to the individual and the family of the individual you want to support and follow their lead. You may also want to speak to the individual’s lawyer. Take some time to strategize and get familiar with the governmental bodies that have power over deportation like the safety minister. Connect with migrant justice groups and Black resistance groups in your city because they can support with press releases, creating online campaigns and hold direct actions. Connect with community organizers who are familiar with the process; groups  like No One is Illegal, Solidarity Across Borders, BLM Toronto and the BLM global network. They can likely offer help and resources.  

What lessons did you learn from engaging in Beverlys’ campaign that you would like others to know? 

I learned that you don’t have to be a professional activist to help support someone and intervene to protect them. Beverley really took the lead and we used the resources we had access to in order to support her. Don’t be discouraged if people tell you that it’s not likely for you to achieve what you’re trying to achieve.   

How do you encourage yourself to keep fighting when things don’t work out?  

Fighting against systemic racism and state violence takes a toll on your mental and physical health because a lot of things that happen can ignite trauma. These systems are meant to dispossess Indigenous people of land, exploit Black and racialized people’s labour. Often, the connections we have to our families mean nothing to the system. In order to continue organizing, I need to not be continuously fighting the system. I need opportunities to create outside of the system. My child and my nieces help to keep me grounded. I like to do things creatively and involve art because art keeps me going.   

When the Forgotten Resist

black and white photo of a stack of letters onto of fanned out pile of mailing envelopes

by Mina Ramos

On September 17th 2013, 191 immigration detainees at the Central East Correctional Centre (CECC) in Lindsay ON collectively went on a hunger strike. At the time, it was one of the largest prisoner hunger strikes in Canadian history and the first time immigration detainees in Canada protested for their rights en masse. Since then, detainees incarcerated in Lindsay, ON have been fighting alongside former detainees and allies to put an end to immigration detention in Canada.

Background on Immigration Detention

At the very basics, immigration detention is a tactic used by the Canadian government to jail migrants. Many immigration laws have been changed in the last 5 years that it doesn’t matter if you are undocumented, a refugee claimant, permanent resident or citizen. As long as you weren’t born here, you can be subjected to immigration detention.

Here’s an overview of how people become immigration detainees in Canada:

  • They commit a crime in Canada. This can be any type of crime. It doesn’t matter how long they have lived here; their status can be taken away and they can be placed in immigration detention
  • They had some sort of visa and it expired. Maybe they were applying for permanent residency, maybe they were waiting for another visa to be processed. Doesn’t matter. If they are caught, they will be placed in immigration detention.
  • They show up at the airport to make a refugee claim, but the government thinks the claim is a fraud or that their papers or identity aren’t real/true. They will get arrested at the airport and be placed in immigration detention.

The government likes to call immigration detention, “administrative hold”. They say this because technically immigration detainees aren’t actually serving time for criminal offenses. Canada has just decided that they don’t deserve to live in Canada anymore and keeps people detained until they find somewhere to deport them to. Even if someone commits a crime with a prison sentence, they first serve the sentence for their crime and then get put under immigration detention. The problem is, “administrative hold” can mean anywhere from 2 days to 10 years and detainees never know if they are going to win their case and be given bail in Canada or deported back to a country where they: a) are in danger b) have not been to in years c) have never been to at all

Because detainees are technically not serving time, the government also gets away with never giving detainees an actual trial. They have something called a “detention review.” It happens once a month and is the only way a detainee can get out of detention. Instead of a judge, they have a randomly appointed member of the Immigration Review Board (ie. The people who helped to put them in jail in the first place) who meets with detainees over something similar to skype. The whole process is such a joke and the release rates are so low that in June of 2014 detainees in three different prisons including the Central East Correctional Centre boycotted their reviews for the month. To give a statistical view of release rates; in 2013, 7,000 people were held in immigration detention but only 711 or 9% were actually released. In fact, Canada is one of the only “western” countries in the world that doesn’t have a set limit on how long someone can be detained for. It is all based on the detention review process.

In the past eight years, over 100,000 people have been held in immigration detention. Hundreds of these detainees are children. In 2013, 205 children were detained in Canada’s immigration holding centres. Although there are 3 designated immigration holding centres (with a fourth being built in Toronto as we speak), almost a third of all immigration detainees are also held in maximum security prisons. Despite some of the obvious human rights issues with immigration detention, millions of dollars are invested in maintaining this system. Canada Borders Services Agency (CBSA) who play a huge role in detaining people has had their budget balloon from 91 million dollars in 2010 to 165 million dollars in 2014-2015.

To be clear, immigration detention does not affect immigrants coming to Canada equally. 90% of immigration detainees at any point in time are racialized and approximately 75%-80% of all detainees are black. It becomes quite apparent that race plays a huge role in terms of who is profiled and targeted for immigration detention and who isn’t.

Detainees Organizing from Inside the CECC

In August of 2013, the ministry of public safety decided to merge a bunch of detainees from different prisons across Southern Ontario into one unit at the CECC in Lindsay ON; a maximum security prison.

The detainees who had been moved were angry. The move had happened without warning and the majority of them were now hours away from their lawyers and family. Unlike many jails across Canada there was no rehabilitative programming and no opportunities for paid work. With the average prison wage rate of 3 dollars a day across Canada, prison work is nothing to boast about. To go from that to nothing however, was a shock. On top of this, the detainees were being subjected to inhumane living conditions. This included constant lockdowns (which basically means never being let out of the cell), rotten food and mould in the cells and showers.

It was under these circumstances that their hunger strike began in September 2013. The detainees in Lindsay ON were in a unique position. They had previously been scattered across Ontario and for the first time they were clumped together in a large group. They started to talk. They realized that immigration detention itself was extremely problematic. They began to question why they were being held in maximum security prisons when they didn’t have charges or why there was no limit to how long they were being detained. They noticed that because they were on immigration hold, they were not getting equal access to the bail program even if/when they had someone to bail them out. Within the first week of the hunger strike, immigration detainees re-focused and changed their demands drastically. They were now focused on 3 things:

  • 1 – End arbitrary and indefinite detention: Implement a 90 day maximum to detention. If removal (deportation) cannot happen within 90 days, immigration detainees must be released. This is recommended by the United Nations, and is the law in the United States and the European Union.
  • No maximum security holds: Immigration detainees should not be held in maximum security provincial jails.
  • Give immigration detainees fair and full access to legal aid, bail programs and pro bono representation.

Detainees connected with migrant justice organizers on the outside and a phone line (which continues to run to this day) was started to keep up active communication with detainees in Lindsay ON. The collective hunger strike officially ended in the beginning of October but detainees continued to organize. Over the last two and a half years they have drafted and snuck out collective statements and petitions against immigration detention, boycotted their detention reviews, held cell walkouts, had fasts, held meetings to negotiate with CBSA and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and done an exuberant amount of media. Despite all of this, nothing has been done to change any of the laws in respects to immigration detention.

Transformative Justice and Immigration Detention

I have worked on the phone line that connects to detainees since September 17th 2013 and have seen how remarkable their organizing has been. It is difficult to sustain organizing in a prison, let alone when you are also at threat of being deported. Despite this, the guys continuously take risks to speak out and come up with new ideas to fight for their freedom. They hold range meetings and educate new detainees when they are brought in about Canada’s immigration system and why immigration detention is unjust. Packages sent in by allies which contain a history of immigration detention, actions that have been taken to fight against it and media coverage on immigration issues are used to help educate new detainees about their situation.

Apart from the organizing aspect, the detainees look out for each other.  Many of them do not speak English and have a hard time advocating for themselves. Often, older detainees will work to try and connect non-English speaking detainees to those that can speak their language to help translate when they need to make phone calls and speak to their lawyers. Although the guys do fight, whenever someone is sent to segregation they call the phone line to check in to see if their friends have called from segregation and are okay. In 2015, when Abdurrahman Ibrahim Hassan died while locked up at the CECC, migrant justice organizers already knew what had happened before he was officially pronounced dead. This was because the guys worked together to know exactly what was going on when Hassan was originally taken out of his cell.

The phone line set up to maintain a connection with detainees and allies on the outside has played a huge role in laying down the foundations for a transformative movement. Although the line was started to hear and support the organizing being done by detainees, it has morphed to be much more than that. Overtime the line has helped to open up many different dialogues that might not have taken place otherwise. For example, in the beginning of their organizing, mental health was something that was rarely brought up by detainees. Through conversations on the line, mental health became a huge topic. As the guys felt less isolated, they opened up about mental health issues both on the line and with each other. In 2015, detainees collectively asked to be individually assessed by a psychotherapist to see how they have been mentally affected by immigration detention.

Although it still has a focus on organizing and bringing up things that come up in the jail, for some the line has also become a place to escape from immigration detention and talk about light hearted things. For others it has become a place to talk about systemic issues. A typical phone line day can look like getting into a debate over why detainees constantly state that they are not criminals and instead exploring the idea of prison abolition, to talking about dating and relationships and the first thing to order in terms of food once they get out of jail. As someone who is queer it has been such an indescribable experience coming out to detainees over time through the phone line and getting into all kinds of discussions around misogyny, patriarchy and homophobia. Since coming out as queer I have always had such a jaded view of cis straight men and at this point spend most of my Tuesdays getting into deep discussions with cis straight men that are deemed by the state as “inadmissible” to Canada but have more brilliance than the politicians who are demonizing them.

I will admit, the movement around immigration detention in Ontario has major fallbacks. Possibly the biggest shortcoming is the fact that at the moment there are very few black people involved in the movement who are not former detainees. This is not the fault of black organizers and community members but rather of migrant justice organizers who have historically failed to reach out and create genuine connections with different black communities or have straight up pushed out black folks from migrant justice organizations. The irony of working with mainly black folks in jail but having little to no black allies on the outside to connect to is too real. Over time, it has become a huge reality check for organizers working with detainees at the CECC to own up to the anti-black racism rooted in the migrant justice movement as it exists and begin to change dynamics that have led up to this. Although I write this article to demonstrate the transformative aspects of this movement, there is clearly a lot more work to be done.

Although many people remain locked up and too many have been deported, there are a few who have been successful in being released from immigration detention since 2013. Just last week, a group of former detainees and people running the phone line gathered for the first time as a group to hangout, eat food and strategize how to continue organizing with those on the inside. The guys exchanged news about different detainees still in jail, joked about sueing CBSA and gave each other advice on how to navigate getting ID’s, work permits, mental health resources…all kinds of things.  The feeling of people being together, some of us meeting each other in persyn for the first time is hard to explain in words. We couldn’t stop taking pictures joking about who would be the first one to post on Instagram. No one actively voiced what we were all feeling until after the hangout. The laws might not have changed but the fact that two and a half years later, the struggle to be free and the connection through the phone line has created deep bonds between the guys themselves and us on the line. Bonds that the system hasn’t been able to break despite their best efforts. That people are still so committed to fighting and through the fight have learnt so much about themselves, each other and the ways that we relate to each other as humans is beautiful. That this means we are winning. If that’s not transformative I’m not sure what is.


mina sitting on a the ground with her arms behind her and smiling

Mina Ramos is a queer mixed race Latina. She is passionate about ideas, thoughts and issues that centre on migration and the movement of people. She also enjoys listening to all kinds of music and occasionally dabbles in making music on her own.

Where Abolition Meets Action

black and white photo of butterfly

A History of Women Organizing Against Gender Violence

By Vikki Law (Adapted for The Peak by Sonali Menezes

There is a growing movement toward abolishing prisons. Anti-violence organizers are calling on prison abolitionists to take gender violence seriously in developing initiatives to address the problem within this context. Fuelled by increasing recognition that women of colour, immigrant, queer, transgender, poor, and other marginalized women are often further brutalized – rather than protected – by the police, grassroots groups, and activists throughout the world, are organizing community alternatives to calling 911. These initiatives are not new. Throughout history, women have acted and organized to ensure their own as well as their loved ones’ safety.

This article examines both past and present models of women’s community self-defence practices against interpersonal violence by exploring methods women have employed to protect themselves, their loved ones, and theircommunities. Storytelling to connect past, present, and future efforts to current initiatives allows us to both envision a future in which police and prisons are not the sole solutions to gender violence and to know that such possibilities can – and, in some small pockets, do or did – exist. While activists and others increasingly embrace the idea of community-based accountability as an alternative to the police, many have difficulty envisioning what accountability processes might look like.

Storytelling to Connect Past, Present and Future

In 2004, Mimi Kim launched Creative Interventions, a resource centre to promote community-based responses to interpersonal violence. The group developed STOP (StoryTelling and Organizing Project), a resource for people to share their experiences with community-based accountability models and interventions to domestic violence, family violence, and sexual abuse. In their 2001 statement on gender violence and incarceration, Critical Resistance and INCITE! Women of Colour Against Violence challenged communities to not only come up with ways to creatively address violence, but also to document these processes: ‘Transformative practices emerging from local communities should be documented and disseminated to promote collective responses to violence’ (Critical Resistance and INCITE!,2001). By connecting past and current organizing initiatives from across the globe, ‘Where Abolition Meets Actions’ hopes to contribute to the conversations around safety and abolition as well as inspires readers to organize in their own communities.

The 1970s (women’s liberation: defending themselves and each other)

Women’s liberation movements of the 1970s allowed women to begin talking openly about their experiences of sexual assault. Discussions led to a growing realization that women need to take their safety into their own hands and fight back.

Some women formed street patrols to watch for and prevent violence against women. In Cambridgeport, Massachusetts, members of Women’s Liberation group Cell 16 began patrolling the streets where women often left their factory jobs after dark. Students at Iowa State University and the University of Kentucky responded, forming patrols on their campus. The lack of police and judicial response to gender violence led to increasing recognition that women needed to learn to physically defend themselves from male violence.

In 1969, Cell 16 established Tae Kwan Do classes for women. Unlike existing police offered self-defense classes that promoted fear rather than empowerment,Cell 16’s classes challenged students to draw the connections between their learned sense of helplessness and their role in society as women (Lafferty & Clark, 1970, pp. 96–97).

In 1974, believing that all people had the right to live free from violence and recognizing that women were often disproportionately impacted by violence, Nadia Telsey and Annie Ellman started Brooklyn Women’s Martial Arts (BWMA) in New York City. ‘I have felt that it [self-defense] is connected to self-determination,’ stated Ellman. By the mid-1970s, the concept of women’s self-defense had become so popular that women began taking training into their own hands to protect them from violence. Some of the programs and schools founded in the 1970s, such as the BWMA (renamed the Center for Anti-Violence Education or CAE in 1989) and Feminists in Self-Defense Training (FIST) in Olympia, Washington, continue teaching women’s self-defense today.

Although much of the 1970s rhetoric and organizing around gender violence presupposed that women were attacked by strangers, women also recognized and organized against violence perpetrated by those that they know, including spouses and intimate partners. In Neu-Isenburg, a small town near Frankfurt, Germany, a group of women called Fan-Shen decided that, rather than establish a shelter for abused women, they would force the abuser out of the house. When a woman called the local women’s shelter, the group arrived at her home to not only confront her abuser, but also occupy the house as round-the-clock guards to the woman until her abuser moved out. When the strategy was reported in 1977, Fan-Shen had already been successful in five instances (‘Women’s Patrol,’ 1977, p.18).

Anti-violence organizing in communities of color

Communities of colour in the USalso developed methods to ensure women’s safety without relying on a system that has historically ignored their safety or further threatened it by using gender violence as a pretext for increased force, brutality, and mass incarceration against community members. In 1979, when Black women were found brutally murdered in Boston’s primarily Black Roxbury and Dorchester neighbourhoods, residents organized the Dorchester Green Light Program. The program provided identifiable safe houses for women who were threatened or assaulted on the streets. Program coordinators, who lived in Dorchester, visited and spoke at community groups and gatherings in their areas. Residents interested in opening their homes as safe houses filled out applications, which included references and descriptions of the house living situation. The program screened each application and checked the references. Once accepted, the resident attended orientation sessions, which included self-defense instruction. They were then given a green light bulb for their porch light; when someone was at home, the green light was turned on as a signal to anyone in trouble. Within eight months, over 100 safe houses had been established (Dejanikus & Kelly, 1979, p.7).

At a 1986 conference on ending violence against women at UCLA, Beth Richie spoke about a community-based intervention program in East Harlem, a New York neighbourhood that was predominantly Black and Latino. Community residents organized to take responsibility for women’s safety. ‘Safety watchers’ visited the house when called by the abused person or the neighbours. They encouraged the abuser to leave; if the abuser refused, the watchers stayed in the house. Their presence prevented further violence, at least while they were present. One attendee noted; ‘in these communities, people do not call the police fearing more violence from the police. Men are not going to jail because the communities are working together’ (Bustamante, 1986, p.14).

Contemporary organizing against gender violence

Recent legislation, such as the US Violence Against Women Act (1994), recognizes the problem of gender violence and seeks to increase police responsiveness but does little to protect women who are politically, economically, or socially marginalized. Instead, the focus on criminalization and incarceration often places them at further risk of both interpersonal and state violence as well as of arrest, incarceration, and, for immigrant women, deportation (Critical Resistance and INCITE!, 2001).

Knowing this, women have acted both individually and collectively to defend themselves. Sex workers, for instance, have organized in different ways to protect themselves from violence.

In March 2006, police responded to the murders of three sex workers in Daytona Beach, Florida, by cracking down on  the sex trade. Recognizing that the police response did more to target than to protect them,street-based sex workers armed themselves with knives and other weapons to protect themselves and each other and to find the killer. In 1995, Stella Sex Workers Alliance was formed in Montréal by sex workers, public health researchers, and sympathizers. Sex workers are equipped with information and support to help them keep safe. Stella compiles, updates, and circulates a Bad Tricks and Assaulters list, enabling sex workers to share information and avoid dangerous situations. They also produce and provide free reference guides that cover working conditions, current solicitation laws, and health information. Stella also advocates for the decriminalization of sex work, recognizing that the criminalization renders sex workers vulnerable to both outside violence and police abuse (Stella, n.d.).

Sex workers are also taking direct action to stop sex trafficking. In 1997, former sex workers began guarding checkpoints along the Nepal–India border to rescue adolescent Nepalese girls from being smuggled into India. The idea emerged with the women living at Maiti Nepal, a home in Kathmandu for women returning from Indian brothels. Many of the women, who had been kidnapped as adolescents and sold into the sex industry, were ashamed and angry about their experiences and wanted to transform their anger into action. They set up four guard posts along the border and began monitoring for human trafficking. During the first three years, the women caught 70 traffickers, saving 240 girls from India’s brothels.

Women marginalized by other factors, such as racism and poverty, have also organized to protect themselves against both interpersonal and state violence. In 2000, the police murders of two young women of colour sparked a dialogue about violence against women among members of Sista II Sista, a collective of women of colour in Brooklyn, New York. Their response was to form Sistas Liberated Ground, a zone in their neighbourhood where crimes against women would not be tolerated. ‘…Our dependence on a police system that was inherently sexist, homophobic, racist, and classist did not decrease the ongoing violence against women we were seeing in our neighbourhoods. In fact, at times, the police themselves were its main perpetrators,’ members of the group stated in 2007 (Burrowes, Cousins, Rojas, & Ude, 2007, p.229).

They instituted an ‘action line,’ which women could call, to explore the options that they – and the group – could take to address violence in their lives. Sister Circles were also established where women could talk about violence and other problems in their daily lives and encouraged the community – rather than the individual woman – to find solutions. In one instance, a woman at the Sister Circle talked about the man who had been stalking her for over a year and, in response,members of the Sister Circle confronted the man at the barbershop where he worked. His male co-workers told the stalker that, if he continued to harass the woman, he would be fired, so he stopped stalking her (Ude, 2006).

Creating communities to deter violence

Not all strategies to prevent gender violence are easily classified as ‘policing from below.’ Some grassroots groups and coalitions recognize that building communities is the first line of defense against violence and are organizing to create social structures and support networks that can collectively address harmful situations. In Durham, North Carolina, in the aftermath of the 2006 rape of a Black woman by members of a Duke University lacrosse team, women of colour and survivors of sexual violence formed the UBUNTU coalition. UBUNTU works to ‘facilitate a systematic transformation of our communities until the day that sexual violence does not occur’ (UBUNTU). Alexis Pauline Gumbs noted: [Our] responses [to violence] were invented on the spot … without a pre-existing model or a logistical agreement. But they were also made possible by a larger agreement that we as a collective of people living all over the city are committed to responding to gendered violence…I think it is very important that we have been able to see each other as resources so that when we are faced with violent situations we don’t think our only option is to call the state. (Piepzna-Samarasinha, 2008, p.81)

UBUNTU members began organizing around the idea of a Harm-Free Zone – an area in which violence would be addressed by the community rather than by the police. ‘A lot of times we talk about community as if it already exists, but I don’t actually think that we have autonomous, completely sustained community. We live with all sorts of dependence on the state, [on] outside institutions. We have a lot of work to do to have the type of communications and support that would fulfill the needs of our community,’ stated Gibbs in 2009. Like the Dorchester Green Light Program, organizers of the Harm-Free Zone brought these ideas to the communities of which they were already a part. ‘Those of us who came together were already working in those settings…for each of us, we’re thinking about how we bring that analysis and that ideal into our preexisting communities.’

Conclusion

Many early anti-violence efforts addressed immediate instances of gender violence, often focusing on the physical aspects of self-defence or a direct response to violence. Women’s organizations taught self-defense classes, confronted abusers and assailants, and formed protective groups to escort each other safely through the streets. In contrast, contemporary organizing often utilizes a multi-layered approach, creatively addressing not only immediate instances of violence but also creating dialogue to challenge and change some of the root causes of gender violence. Despite these differences, each project emphasizes the importance of community – as opposed to individual – actions and responses. None of these projects would have succeeded without a collective sense of responsibility toward each other.

While not every project and group explicitly identifies as an abolitionist group, their practices work toward a radical re-envisioning of creating safety without relying on police. These models are important for imagining and then realizing abolitionist principles.

By examining the variety of approaches in their vastly different contexts, we can begin to connect the abstract ideal with concrete actions that make another world possible. We should be drawing lessons from these projects and approaches to create models that work for our own locations and communities.


Victoria Law is the author of Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women, editor of the zine Tenacious: Art and Writings by Women in Prison, and a proud parent. She has written extensively about the intersections of incarceration, gender and resistance for various news outlets, including Al Jazeera America, Bitchmedia, The Guardian, The Nation and Truthout.

Sonali is a little brown femme living in southern Ontario. She’s a student, artist, zinester, and maker of things through her itty bitty-business GlitteringMagpiee. She enjoys living gently and cuddling with her cat.

Keeping our Sisters Safe

woman in all white swimming underwater

by Naomi Sayers

Above: Untitled by Brendan Stephens 

Last October, Canadians across the country voted. The Liberals won a majority. If Canadians voted for the Liberals, the Liberals promised to launch a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit persons (MMIWG2S). Canadians voted, the Liberals won, and now, the party has initiated the first steps to launching a national inquiry.

As I write this piece, Cabinet Ministers just completed the inquiry design meetings in British Columbia. The Cabinet Ministers present at the meetings include the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, the Minister of Justice, and the Minister of Status of Women. Since the Ministers announced the first steps into the inquiry, many people were confused. How did they start the process so quickly? Who is involved in and how they are involved?

For me, as a survivor of colonialism and all of its violence including state/individual violence, I prefer to ask questions about how this inquiry process will change the system which imprisons Indigenous, Brown and Black bodies at alarming rates. How do we move beyond a system, the criminal justice system, which responds to the violence that causes the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit persons to persist? Conversely, how do we seek justice for missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit persons without validating or legitimizing a system which continues to imprisons Indigenous, Brown and Black bodies at shocking rates? Can we imagine a world without continued policing of Indigenous, Brown and Black bodies through criminalization of same? And, can we imagine a world without prisons which continue to inflict harm and violence in on Indigenous, Brown, and Black peoples’ lives and which continue to benefit white settler society?

Whenever I hear the police say they are seeking more funds to help protect the vulnerable, I know they are not thinking about Indigenous women, girls or two-spirit folks. Whenever I hear representatives of various levels of governments or representatives of non-profit organizations say they need more funds to help protect victims of violence, I know they are not thinking about Indigenous women, girls or two-spirit folks. When discussions of violence take place, oftentimes we forget about the people who exist within violent systems—the prison system.

For some people, justice translates to retaliation, an eye for an eye. For many families and friends of MMIWG2S, it means seeing people imprisoned away for life. A life for a life. The families/friends of MMIWG2S have every right to decide what is justice for their loved ones. Yet, in Canada, life does not life. Life means twenty-five years. And, sometimes it means less than that, similar to how white settler society values the lives of MMIWG2S: less than…less than human.

For me, as someone who has been in the system, justice means making a change to support the lives of those women, girls and two-spirit folks still living. Justice, to me, means responsibility. What are our responsibilities to each other? To our families? To our neighbors? To our communities?

Whenever another Indigenous woman, girl or two-spirit person is reported missing or found murdered, we tell the stories about how they were a family member or a community member. The media articles often quoting loved ones, “She was a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend…” True. We all belong to a family or a community in one way or another. But how do we move beyond a system, the criminal justice system, which responds to the violence that causes the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit persons to persist? Often times, it is this same system which allows the violence to exist. So, instead of telling stories, Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit folks are keeping secrets. Secrets of police violence. Are these the secrets we want to keep?

One way we can move beyond a system which responds to the issue of MMIWG2S is the very simple act of believing. Believe the stories that Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit folks tell you when they are experiencing violence, including the stories of police violence, or after they experienced violence. Also, create the space for Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit folks to tell their stories. A space free of judgment, shame and a space filled with love and trust. Trust that one will not tell their stories without their consent.

While I acknowledge that some people see a criminal justice response as the only response, because as it exists today, it is the dominant response. However, I cannot agree that it is the only response to the issue of MMIWG2S. I think there are many actions that communities and individuals can take tomorrow to help fight for MMIWG2S.

For instance, similar to justice, safety or keeping safe means many different things to people in different contexts. In one context, being safe may mean staying alone for a few minutes or a few days. In another instance, being safe may mean having a telephone conversation with a loved one, letting them know you are okay. So, safety can mean many different things and we can help keep each other safe in many different ways. When I think about safety, I think about what has kept me calm, breathing. It is the system who prefers I stop breathing, so I breathe.

Both individuals and communities can do some of the following to help keeping Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit folks safe:

  • Offer to give someone a ride or bus fare, if they need to get somewhere (if possible)
  • Offer to pick someone up or pay for a cab, if they need to get back home (if possible)
  • Offer to cook a warm meal, if they have been away for a long time
  • Offer a warm shower/bath
  • Offer to attend an appointment with them
  • Offer to help with groceries for a week
  • Offer to go for a walk with them

Even though these suggestions are not systemic changes to the criminal justice system which will end violence against Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit folks, I know that the small things have helped me get through the day and kept me safe—however, I chose to define safety for me in that moment. For members of over-policed/over-criminalized communities (i.e., sex workers), safety means not calling the police which often invites more violence into our lives. So, safety means never engaging with the criminal justice system. Ever. It is literally a life and death situation when our lives are threatened for simply existing.

It is no accident that the bodies who occupy the spaces in prisons are predominantly Indigenous, Brown and Black. It is not an accident that the bodies who are over-policed/over-criminalized are predominantly Indigenous, Brown and Black. So, how do we imagine a world without policing of Indigenous, Brown and Black bodies and without criminalization of same? And, can we imagine a world without prisons which continue to inflict harm and violence in Indigenous, Brown and Black peoples’ lives and which continue to benefit white settler society?

The people who work within the system are predominantly white settlers. They benefit from the imprisonment of Indigenous, Brown and Black bodies. They make a living off of the continued policing or criminalizing of same. So what if we asked questions about how the inquiry process will make change which prevents the continued imprisonment, or the continued policing or criminalizing of Indigenous, Brown and Black bodies? What if we asked for an investment into our communities, the same communities whose mothers, daughters, sisters, friends and family members who continue to go missing and murdered? What if we asked for an investment into our communities, the same communities who continued to be targeted with police violence? The same communities whose Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit folks keep secrets instead of telling their stories? The same communities whose same members occupy prisons at alarming rates? I want to begin to create the space where our people can tell stories instead of keep secrets. I want to begin to create the space where our people can feel safe, without judgment or shame. I want to begin to create space where our people can not rely on the system that continues to benefit white settler society through the imprisonment of our families/friends and that continues to benefit white settlers while they live and work on stolen Indigenous land. O’ Canada, our home on native land. Stolen Indigenous land.

If you believe the change is too hard to make, let me remind you that it’s simple: create the space, believe our stories, and realize the potential for a world without prisons. And, that should be our responsibility to each other and to our communities. 


Portrait of Naomi in a white blazer with her hand on her hip looking down

Naomi Sayers is an indigenous feminist and an Anishnaabe-kwe who writes at www.kwetoday.com. She is currently studying law at the University of Ottawa. Naomi is frequently asked to write about issues relating to missing and murdered Indigenous women. She is also regularly asked to speak on issues relating to violence against Indigenous women and sex work related policy. 

Protect kaniaterawanon’on: We Report Back

By lako’tsira:reh Amanda Lickers

Background on the shit

The city of Montréal has been looking to do some highway renovations amongst its crumbling colonial infrastructure. Somehow the city is using this need for infrastructural repairs for a highway overpass as an excuse to dump a proposed eight billion litres of raw untreated sewage directly into kaniaterawanon’on:we, or the St. Lawrence River. This is the equivalent to 2600 Olympic sized swimming pools.This sewage includes medical and industrial waste as well as hard solids such as prophylactics, sanitary products and other residential waste materials. Many of you may not know that located on the east end of tionni’tiotiah:ke (so-called the Island of Montréal) is a SunCor refinery, as well as a huge industrial zone. All manner of petrochemical and carcinogenic byproducts and waste materials are included in this release as well.

The popular opinion was very clear cut, even the most iridescent Quebécois nationalists were against this dump. Unfortunately for us as onkwehon:we, the Mayor Denis Coderre was extremely stubborn and refused to head to Federal, Provincial or even International level backlash (a couple New York Senators came out against the dump) adamantly insisting this is “the best possible plan”.

The impacts of this dump are truly unknown. Many onkwehon:we communities will be feeling the impact emotionally, spiritually and physically for generations to come. The effect of toxic effluents within fish and marine populations mean an uncertain future for traditional peoples looking to subsist from fishing and trapping along the river. This includes Haudenosaunee, Metis, Innu, Wolastoqiyik, Mi’kmaq, Abenaki and many other Nations. Further to this, our relatives such as the deer will not be able to read the “do not touch the water” signs now posted across kaniaterawanon’on:we.

This river is one of the most important bodies of water in the entire world, connecting the largest supply of fresh water to mother ocean and whose tributaries feed so many lakes and streams south of the imperial 49th parallel.

A full timeline of events up until the Mercier Bridge Blockades can be found here

Cease & Desist: Actions Escalate

October 6th, 2015

kahtihon’tia:kwenio – the women caretakers of the territory – sent a cease and desist notice to the  Mayor of the city of Montréal, notifying the settler colonial government that their plan to discard this raw sewage into the river of the original people violates kaianere’kowa, the Great Law of Peace. This notice of cease and desist cites wampum forty four of the kaianere’kowa, stating that the women are the decision makers and true caretakers of the territory as our faces yet to be born are carried through by our women and clan mothers. Shortly after this, a sacred fire vigil was set up at the foot of the Mercier Bridge.

October 16th, 2015

Press conference held at Adirondack Junction where rotinoshonni’on:we and supporters lit a fire at the edge of the train tracks as a warning to the Federal Minister of the Environment and the Mayor of the city of Montréal that if our notice of cease and desist is not headed we will be forced to escalate actions in order to protect kaniaterawanon’on:we – the river of the original people.

October 22nd, 2015

In light of a lack of commitment on behalf of colonial officials to stop the dump into our river, rotinoshonni’on:we and some settler supporters made good on our promise to escalate actions. Thursday, October 22nd at 9am we shut down the train tracks that run through Kahnawake, one of the main economic arteries, preventing both commercial and industrial train traffic from moving for over an hour, costing untold thousands of dollars for CN rail.

For a video of this Rail Blockade visit:

www.facebook.com/subMedia/videos/vb.199700056830375/718247161642326/?type=2&theater

Mercier Bridge Blockades

#StopTheShit

November 10th & 11th, 2015

On November 10th it was announced that the dumping will take place at midnight. rotinoshonni’on:we and settler supporters came to the Sacred Fire Vigil that evening to form a plan. As with all community spaces there are differing perspectives and experiences. Fortunately, Kahnawake has a rich history of resisting settler colonialism and imperial occupation. The community meetings up to this point and this evening were very intergenerational and we are very grateful for this. It is important to acknowledge the work and experiences of our Elders who have seen many more battles than those of us coming into young-adulthood, and there has been strong leadership coming from youths under the age of 20.

As rotinoshonni’on:we, within kanianere’kowa, we have a responsibility to the faces not yet born to protect our peoples, our lands, our lifeways and our water. The people who assembled at the Vigil and whose chose to take action are just that, common people. As rotinoshonni’on:we it is our birthright to protect the natural world and all that which sustains life.

The power is in the people and the people took the power on these nights. Folks from age 17 to 76 years-of-age were out blockading the Mercier Bridge, to show our collective strength to our colonial occupiers imploring them to stop the dump. Each night the bridge was blockaded until midnight. The entire time there were different speakers expressing their ideas, their strategies and their concerns for which tactics will be the most effective. Trying to navigate multiple perspectives in a horizontal style, where there is disagreement and also historical trauma is very difficult. However it was the younger folks who took the lead for action, after much discussion around the fire, and broke off and marched onto the bridge. Once the blockade was safely established, Elders and folks who were maybe a little shy decided to join. Many people stayed by the fire or moved to the side line to observe and show support.

The 207 Longhouse showed its support of the people and was present while the blockades took place, whose presence helped to ensure the safety of community members.

The entire time we were given support from the drivers and people who were forced to re-route as a result of the blockade. We sang songs, chanted and raised hell as much as we could in the cold dark night. At one point even some pizza was ordered to us to keep us warm and fed. The act of blockading the Mercier Bridge was very controversial especially amongst Kahnawakeronon, as the historical trauma from the Protection of the Pines (“oka crisis”) is still fresh for many. These moves however were made by Kahnwake youth who felt a strong sense of urgency and took action in a way that was accessible and effective. Working through and dealing with community-based historical trauma is one of the many complex aspects of organizing within onkwehon:we contexts.

Kahnawake Survival School Walk Out

November 13th, 2015

After the bridge blockades many youth from Kahnawake decided to lead a walkout from the

Kahnawake Survival School to demonstrate against the dump.

The Shit Stops

November 14th, 2015 

The city of Montréal stops dump after four billion litres of sewage released into kaniaterawanon’on:we.

Although we were unsuccessful in preventing the entirety of this desecration into our river – the lifeblood of our territories – and really our own bodies, we were able to delay the dump for over a month’s time and Mayor Merde Coderre only let go four billion liters instead of eight billion liters. Is this a win? There is still shit in our river. It is important that although we are grieving our river and know that any desecration by the militarized occupation on our lands known as Canada or Québec is a form of biological warfare against our people and all members of creation, we must also see that the power remains within us and despite impossible odds we can make some kind of impact. There are many lessons to be taken away from this experience and our communities are constantly learning and adapting. We must fortify ourselves and our movements in order to ensure that next time we will only be successful in reaching our goals.

Protect kaniaterawanon’on:we

contact: reclaimturtleisland@gmail.com

Reclaim Turtle Island (RTI) is a grassroots, volunteer organization that survives solely on the donations of generous people. RTI has been one of the main sources for independent, indigenous run news from across Great Turtle Island and has been especially involved with the on-the-ground efforts to protect kaniaterawanon’on:we.


LAKO’TSIRA:REH AMANDA LICKERS

turtle clan seneca / tionni’tiotiah:ke livin

Amanda is a femme, 2 spirit spoken word poet, filmmaker and curator with Reclaim Turtle Island (@defendourlands), an all ndn grassroots media justice collective which focuses on anti-colonial cultural production and fanning the flames of the Indigenous insurrection, supporting grassroots land defense and sovereignty struggles.

#BlackOnCampusGuelph Report Back

black student protestors rallying and holding a banner that reads "we stand with students in Mizzou and Yale #blackoncampusguelph

by Galme Mumed

My name is Yasmin Mumed and I am one of the main organizers of the #BlackonCampusGuelph rally, which took place November 18th, at the University of Guelph. We started out with a rally where we had staff and students share their various stories of what it means to be black on campus Guelph which led into a march. The event was a part of a larger movement where Black Students took over social media and campuses internationally, to express our solidarity with black students resisting and fighting for the rights at Mizzou.

This created a space where black students could begin sharing our stories of being black on university and college campuses.

At the University of Guelph we saw stories from students who face anti-black racism in classrooms, residences, campus services, and within social spaces. This was so important for students who voices have been silenced front the moment they stepped on this campus. So many people shared stories of being entirely abandoned and ignored by the administration in dealing with anti-Black racism. We ended off the action by marching into the admin office to drop off a list of demands we are expecting to be met.

Post- rally we received an immense amount backlash from people on various forms of social media such as yikyak,liveleak, and Overheard at Guelph. Due to the several hundred immensely  racist comments from students at the university black students felt unsafe being on campus and in their classrooms and were left with no support.

The CJ. Munford Center, a club on campus that promotes racial diversity is the only space that supports Black students on campus. The Munford Center is seriously underfunded compared to other student groups on campus. The only paid staff at the centre was let go by the administration only a few years ago because of budget cuts. Black students are left to deal with the brunt of a legacy of anti-Blackness without any form of support from the administration.

The #BlackonCampusGuelph protest was an act of courage and a way for black students on campus to show the school administration that they were fed up with decades anti-black racism on campus. It is imperative for us not to view what is taking place in Mizzou in isolation. Students across Canada and right here in Guelph experience both subtle and overt manifestation of anti-black racism in every aspect of our education. We will no longer tolerate being silenced or erased. It is time the administration meet our demands and take accountability.


Galme Mumed

I was born in Hararge Oromia. I came to Canada when I was 8 years old but my heart and my memories are still in Hararge Oromia. I believe I am here in Canada for a reason and have a purpose to serve both here and in my home. I am proud to call myself Oromo and Muslim and Black. I feel like my ancestors have left me with many teachings and gifts that I’m constantly trying to listen to. I am a revolutionary because that’s the legacy I was born into.

Selling Out Resistance

by Amelia Meister

Behind closed doors, shortly before COP21 in Paris, the Alberta NDP government met with the leaders of four major tar sands oil producers and four major Non-Governmental Organization (NGOs) that oppose them. What came out of this meeting was a pathetic agreement between all parties that touts “sustainable development” of the tar sands.

The NGOs represented were Equiterre, ForestEthics, the Pembina Institute and Environmental Defence. If you don’t know about these NGOs then let me put them into perspective. ForestEthics, in 2014, spent 1.5 million dollars on their anti-tarsands campaigns, the most of any of their campaigns. In 2012, major social justice lawyer Clayton Ruby joined the organization to push it into the limelight for the good work that it was doing against the tar sands. In short, these are major NGOs with significant resources and support bases. These NGOs have been one of many vocal thorns in the side of tarsands development reaching a wide audience through radio and print ads that more grassroots groups couldn’t afford.

However, what was once direct opposition to any development of the tar sands has become a support for a new agreement with oil conglomerates. The agreement between the Alberta NDPs and the oil companies, supported by these four NGOs is a cap on emissions and development. However, the cap is forty percent greater than current development and emissions. This is hardly a revolutionary deal. Anti-pipeline and anti-tarsands activism, including actions from these four NGOs, has slowed down investment and development in the tar sands and their affiliated pipelines. I wonder, with this new endorsement of “sustainable development”, how these NGOs will continue to be a voice of opposition to the tar sands. If all opposition continued to present a united resistance, development could have been slowed even further, instead of capped at something greater than it is now.

It is jeopardizing to the anti-­tarsands and anti-pipeline movement when the more mainstream view of what is possible consists of “sustainable development” and creating relationships with oil companies for “workable solutions”. Resistance to the tar sands cannot coincide with collaborating with oil companies. There is no such thing as sustainable development of the tar sands. The only sustainable option is for them to cease to exist, something that these NGOs have apparently forgotten. Any development of the tar sands is destructive not only to the delicate boreal forest ecosystem but to the indigenous nations affected by the pollution and deforestation. There was no consultation in this agreement with the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. These NGOs claim some sort of solidarity with Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island and yet have no problem negotiating a secret deal with oil corporations and government without any consultation. This is yet another perpetuation of the broken colonial systems that allow the tar sands to continue. While it is not surprising that this happened, the non-profit industrial complex continues to perpetuate the patterns of capitalistic and colonial ecological destruction. We must, then, continue direct action, in solidarity with Indigenous peoples, to apply the pressure that these NGOs have ceased to offer.


 

Amelia Meister
Amelia Meister is a poet, healer and radical single mother. She believes in working hard, loving fiercely and grieving deeply. Her writing appears in a monthly column in the Guelph Mercury and her words have been shared on many stages across Canada.