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Opposition growing against indefinite immigration detention in Canada

Toronto – Naomi Klein, John Greyson, Council of Canadians, Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Law Union of Ontario, Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture, Public Services Alliance of Canada – Ontario, Shit Harper Did, and over 50 other leading labour, civil society, grassroots groups and individuals representing over a million people have joined with migrant detainees in Lindsay, ON, and their families calling for an end to indefinite detention, maximum security incarceration of migrants and an overhaul of the adjudication process.

Brent Patterson

Full list of endorsers and demands:

Migrants in Lindsay, ON, have been on strike since September 17th. They have gone on hunger strike (two of them for over 60 days), refused to attend their detention hearings or enter their cells; and participated in other political actions. Striking migrants have faced reprisals with many deported, locked up in segregation, moved to other prisons and denied access to legal counsel. Yet actions have continued. A demonstration is now planned at Lindsay jail at 1pm on December 14th, with migrants on the inside organizing a 24 hour fast.

“Harper has been taking apart the immigration system, increasing temporary workers and denying status to families and refugees. Too many of these migrants are being held indefinitely at huge cost with no results,” says Denis Lemelin, President of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. “The labour movement is united behind real immigration reform and an end to unjust detentions and deportations.” 

"Harper's laws are 'tough on crime' but soft on facts. Canada lags shamefully behind other countries that limit detentions pending deportations, resulting in the jailing of migrants indefinitely. This is unjust and must stop. Immigrants shouldn't be held in maximum security prisons and they surely shouldn't be held indefinitely," says Brent Patterson, Political Director of the Council of Canadians. 

“Unlike the United States and the European Union, Canada has no limit on how long migrants can be held pending a deportation. When Canada can’t deport migrants because of lack of travel documents or due to the political climate of home countries, these migrants become indefinitely detained,” explains Margaret Parsons, Executive Director of the African Canadian Legal Clinic. "Detained migrants are predominantly racialized people that are being denied status wholesale, and then being punished for just simply living here."

“It was very moving and upsetting to meet some of the Lindsay detainees a few weeks ago. So much of what they described to us struck a chord, given what we just went through in Cairo. For detainees and their families, to suffer indefinite detention is to be consigned to a terrible limbo, not knowing what the future holds, not knowing how long the ordeal will last. I hope that people across the country join the detainees and their families calling for their release and an end to this injustice,” says John Greyson who was held in a jail in Cairo for 51 days. 

“My son has been in jail for over 28 months and his life is just passing him by. Canada can’t deport him anywhere, they flew him to Tanzania and the Tanzanians sent him back. If he was out with his family, he could be putting his life together and getting his refugee status back, instead he’s just wasting away in a prison cell,” says Mohamed Mjasiri. “We are calling on people across Canada to join us and insist that the Canadian government release our son and others indefinitely detained.”

“Canada steals immigration status from families, forcing them to live without documents and in fear. Many are jailed in maximum security prisons, without access to release and then deported to places they don’t want to go to. To add to this injustice, some migrants are locked up in limbo, they can’t be deported and won’t be released. This is a broken system and in need of an overhaul. We need to end detentions and deportations starting with an end to indefinite detention,” says Syed Hussan from No One Is Illegal – Toronto and the End Immigration Detention Network.