Act in Solidarity with Migrants Detained by Canada: Immediate Release, No New Detentions!

March 19, 2020

Thirty-four migrants, held in Laval, Quebec, have issued a call to be released in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Their hand-written petition was sent earlier today to the Federal Minister of Public Safety, Federal Minister of Immigration, Prime Minister of Canada, the Federal and Quebec Ministers of Health, and international bodies such as the UNHCR.

We are joining the detainees to demand the immediate release of everyone currently detained, safe and decent housing for everyone released, and an end to new detentions!

Support the prisoners (see more background below)

  • In Canada, call officials: your MP, Ministers of Health and Public Safety (contacts and script below)
  • Outside Canada, call Canadian embassy and consulate (contacts and script below)
  • Everywhere, echo their demands in social media, alternative media and mainstream media by passing this message on, and by posting or writing articles demanding their release (background on migrant detention in Canada).
  • Poster gallery (for kids at home): we are inviting kids (of any age, anywhere!) to create posters demanding the immediate release of the prisoners – these will be added to an online gallery and used in the struggle to free them.

Background

The 34 detainees are inmates of the Laval Immigration Prevention Centre, a prison where migrants are held if they don’t have identity documents, or if Canada wants to deport them and does not think they will comply (because they are too afraid, for example). Detention of people without citizenship is an important tool that Canada uses to keep its borders closed to colonized and racialized people from the global south, while continuing to exploit their labour and natural resources.

Afraid for their health, the prisoners in the migrant prison in Laval point out in their petition the high risks of being kept in a confined space. They are exposed to hundreds of guards, food workers, and health staff entering and leaving the facility every day.

Their demand comes as urgent calls for the release of prisoners multiply – in Quebec, across Canada and elsewhere – as a public health imperative. The pandemic has exposed how interrelated we all are in society, within and across borders, within and outside prison. It calls for solidarity with those who will be hit hardest – those already in the most precarious situations, such as detention.

Meanwhile, visits to the prison for migrants have been cancelled, leaving prisoners even more isolated. Detention is already a major source of psychological distress, especially for trauma survivors, in addition to poor nutrition and sleep, and limited access to healthcare.  The lack of visits also poses a significant barrier to legal advice. Mandatory detention review hearings now take place by phone. On Tuesday afternoon, CBSA announced that it was halting deportations for at least three weeks, but failed to address detention.

Contacts

Bill.Blair@parl.gc.ca
Telephone: 613-995-0284
Fax: 613-996-6309

  • Quebec Health Minister Danielle McCann

Telephone: 418-266-7171
Fax: 418-266-7197
ministre@msss.gouv.qc.ca

  • Canadian Embassies (actually there are probably more, but this might be helpful as a start)

What to say

– Locking people inside this facility and taking away their freedom is unjustifiable to begin with, but to force people to remain inside in the midst of a pandemic is beyond unjust, it’s dangerous for everyone

– I am asking for the immediate release of everyone currently detained and decent and safe housing for all of the people who are released.

– I am also asking for an end to new detentions

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