Episode #22- Growing violence against and exploitation of working-poor migrants in Canada: Part 1

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In response to these recent raids that have occurred under the public's noses, there have been many mass public actions throughout Canada denouncing these dehumanizing attacks on racialized working-poor (im)migrant communities, including in Guelph, ON. Fuerza/Puwersa organized a potluck dinner and panel on April 30, 2009 in Downtown Guelph. This "Status for All!" May Day Dinner event featured speakers from several different associations including Janet McLaughlin (researcher on migration and instructor at the University of Guelph), Marco Luciano (coordinator with Migrante Ontario), Craig Fortier (organizer with No One Is Illegal-Toronto), and Benny Quay (International Student Advisor, University of Guelph).

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BACKGROUND:

Canadian state-(im)migrant relations continue to be marked by unnecessary, violent, US-style raids and deportations. Within at least the last seven months hundreds of migrants throughout southern Ontario have been aggressively confronted at gunpoint, handcuffed, incarcerated and deported. The Canadian Border Services Agency (CSBA) has conducted raids in Simcoe, Toronto, Leamington and Windsor, arresting hundreds of overseas workers with precarious statuses and denying all of them due process. Many of those arrested were detained in public places in sting operations, including cases in which Canadian Border Services Agents waited outside of shelters or posed as lawyers willing to help them with their paperwork. Others were arrested in workplaces or their homes, and left handcuffed for extensive periods of time leading to the injuries of arms and wrists.

An example of this disturbing trend took place in early April, when CSBA conducted raids on nearly 100 workers at Cericola Farms’ food processing factories. The workers were held at gun point, rounded up, and herded into a cafeteria, where CBSA separated individuals with proof of citizenship and permanent residency from workers without full documentation, in turn immediately criminalizing the latter. These individuals were then transferred and kept immobile, shackled on a bus for a reported eight hours. Dozens more undocumented people were picked up in places unrelated to their workplace, some by enforcement officers waiting outside of shelters or impersonating lawyers.

More than 100 of these workers were later driven to the Rexdale Immigration Detention Centre in Toronto, where they were put into a room with no furniture to wait unattended for several more hours. An immigration official then rushed through their rights in a reported 15 minutes using complicated, language saturated in legal terms. The official provided them with biased recommendations, and did not adequately identify documents and materials which migrant workers were pressured to sign. The documents provided are not part of the federal Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. As in the case for all the raids and arrests, the inadequate level of information and support provided to these targeted people has resulted in many workers unintentionally waiving their rights to counsel, options for delaying their removal, and appealing to procedural actions. Most of the detained workers, many of which had their original passports stolen from them by their employers, have already been forced out of Canada and deported.

The most recently reported raid took place on October 8th in Leamington ON, where CBSA broke into the home of three targeted individuals, aggressively arresting them, and incarcerating them in Rexdale Immigration Detention Centre, pending their deportation.

All the while, an understanding of why "illegal" or non-status peoples are a product of a broken immigration system has not been explored. Demonstrating no humane sensitivity and no adherence to morality, Canadian enforcement authorities and mainstream media continue to ignore the core of this issue and refuse to lay charges against any of the employers of the victimized overseas workers, instead preferring to target the working-poor and the most vulnerable, allowing the process of dehumanizing migrants to occur.

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About Fuerza/Puwersa-Guelph: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=9085614140

migrantmatters@gmail.com

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