More Migrants Kidnapped by Kenney's Goons: Workplace Raids in Southern Ontario
Tuesday, June 2, 200924 Comments
Guelph community members unfurl a homemade banner at the Mayday of Action: No One Is Illegal! rally in Toronto.
In the last couple of months Canadian-immigrant relations have been marked by unnecessarily violent, US-style mass raids, detentions and deportations of migrant workers throughout southern Ontario.
The latest example of this trend took place this past week on May 27. Early Wednesday morning, immigration enforcement officers swarmed Lakeside Greenhouse in Leamington, Ontario and arrested at least nine female migrant food packaging workers. The women, Mexican citizens, are currently being detained in Windsor County Jail.
The majority of those arrested are in Canada on valid visas. Some have pending refugee claims and are at risk in their country of origin. One of the detainees is pregnant. Though individuals awaiting refugee claim hearings hold a level of protection against immigration arrests and are in fact legally allowed to work, immigration enforcement officers bypassed protocol and disregarded any humane sensitivity when they pursued their aggressive raid.
The criminalization of these women is wrong. We must ask ourselves: what truly is their crime?
It is critical to acknowledge that as Canada continues to make it close to impossible for hardworking immigrants of trade and manual labour skills to enter our country legally. The system is pushing hardworking immigrants into precarious conditions as these individuals strive to make a living where the opportunities exist, even at the risk of being undocumented. They contribute to Canada’s economy, but again and again, the door of opportunity is being shut in their faces.
These latest arrests emphasize that our immigration system needs reworking. It seems irresponsible for our current Conservative government to focus on pursuing and arresting people who should not be seen as criminals while there are urgent issues affecting Canadians: EI, mass layoffs, and welfare rates that fall below the poverty line. Shamefully, all of this is happening while the government bails out the wealthy, whose unrestrained greed has caused the current economic crisis. The discrimination against migrants needs to stop.
Terror and Violence Against Migrants: By-products of Recent Shifts in Immigration Policy
In April, Canadian Border Services Agency and South Simcoe Police conducted raids in Simcoe, Toronto, Leamington and Windsor. Nearly 100 workers were rounded up at Cericola Farms’ food processing factories. The workers were held at gunpoint and herded into cafeteria, where CBSA agents separated workers with proof of citizenship and permanent residency from those who didn’t. The undocumented workers were then transferred to a bus and kept shackled 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 taken to the Rexdale Immigration Detention Centre, 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 legal language, providing them with biased recommendations and not adequately identifying documents which the migrant workers were pressured to sign. This inadequate level of information and support resulted in many workers unintentionally waiving their rights to counsel and options for delaying their removal and appealing to procedural actions. Later, 41 of the detained workers were forced out of Canada and deported to Thailand.
Immigration authorities did not consider the context of these cases, as many of the arrested workers possessed temporary work permits but fell into a precarious status for a number of reasons. Some reported that they faced severe danger if they were to return to their countries of origin. Others worked unauthorized second jobs because the only jobs they were legally permitted to work paid below a living wage. At least one was reportedly forced to quit due to a sexually exploitative employer. These factors have not received attention, nor any investigations have been forwarded, and no charges have been laid against any of the employers of the arrested.
Repression and raids have accompanied the changes to the immigration system made by the Harper Conservatives. All throughout Canada last summer, mass protests were held against the passing of the racist and classist Bill C-50. The bill was eventually passed in June 2008 with the Liberals refusing to vote against it for fear of prompting a politically undesirable election.
This new bill attacks immigrants' rights in a variety of ways. It allows the Immigration, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Minister (currently, Jason Kenney) to set quotas on the "category" of person that can legally set foot in Canada. This includes setting quotas based on a person’s country of origin, regardless of the skills that person may possess.
Setting quotas on the basis of a person’s country of origin represents a critical shift in Canadian immigration policy. Its precedents include the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1923, the Order in Council of 1911 prohibiting the "landing of any immigrant belonging to the Negro race" and the "none is too many" rule applied to Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe during Second World War. Under Stephen Harper, and more recently under Minister of "Censorship and Deportation" Jason Kenney, Canada's immigration policy has taken a significant step backward towards its racist roots.
In light of the many immigration and citizenship issues currently arising in both national and Ontario news (for example, the allegations surrounding Liberal Immigration Critic MP Ruby Dhalla and her family's abusive treatment of, and possibly illegal practices towards, two of their hired filipina migrant live-in caregiver workers), it is important that the Guelph public be informed about the many (im)migration issues existing locally and related events, such as this past Wednesday's raids, as, although it is not well known by the general public (with the exception of a few organizations such as Migrante Ontario and Immigration Services), there are many temporary migrant workers in Guelph.
It is important for us to recognize the root causes of immigration and migration, and in turn the recent criminalization of im/migrants. Many im/migrants are forced to come to Canada as their home countries have been savaged by wars and neo-liberal economic models that promote corporate exploitation and the destruction of local economies. Half of all people arriving in Canada today are on temporary visas and have very little chance of permanent residency. Half a million live in Canada without any status at all.
Newcomers continue to make important contributions to our country, and deserve respect and dignity. Canada should regularize non-status members of our communities so they can continue to contribute to our economy while living in safety and peace. We must grant them status, and put an end to the dehumanizing and criminalizing attacks on im/migrant communities.
The opinions posted on thecannon.ca reflect those of their author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Central Student Association and the Guelph Campus Co-op. We encourage all students to submit opinion pieces, including ones that run contrary to the opinion piece in question.