Friday, March 04, 2005

Bring Wendy Maxwell Home!

On March 5th community activist Wendy Maxwell, aka Nzinga, was arrested by Toronto cops while selling cookies at an International Women's Day event.

What was her crime? Being a queer Black "non-status" immigrant
from Costa Rica; being a woman who could and would stand up for herself
and others...

Maxwell originally came to Canada in 1997, thinking she had made
arrangements to work as a bartender. When she arrived she found she was
in fact expected to work as an exotic dancer. Until 1997 "exotic dancer"
was a special category under which Immigration Canada allowed women to
work in Canada. This arrangement made it particularly difficult for immigrant women to leave the industry, or defend their rights.

Nevertheless, after 18 months Maxwell managed to leave her job,
and applied for refugee status. As a Black queer woman who had previously
had run-ins with a gang and with the police in her native Costa Rica,
Maxwell feared for her safety were she to return to her country of birth.
This was not a decision she took lightly, as she has childen in Costa Rica,
and staying in Canada meant being separated from them.

In December 2003 Maxwell's claim for refugee status was denied,
and an order was issued for her deportation. Although she applied for
leave to stay in Canada under humanitarian and compassionate grounds
in January 2004, she also decided to go underground rather than return
to Costa Rica while awaiting the government's decision.

During this time Maxwell also organized with others to fight against
the oppression Canadian society rains down on queers, women, sex trade
workers and people of colour. She worked at CKLN 88.1 FM Community Radio, the Latin American Coalition to end Violence Against Women, the Barbara Schlifer Commemorative Clinic, the Ralph Thornton Community Centre as a network administrator's assistant, the Global African Congress, and as an outreach worker with the Black Coalition for Aids Prevention (BlackCAP). Her work is also being published in "A New Look at Heterosexism and Homophobia" being put out in collaboration with the McGill University for the Canadian Aids Society.

She also took on the name Nzinga, after the seventeenth century
Queen of Angola who waged war against the Portuguese invaders. Two of
Queen Nzinga's war leaders were her sisters, and any women were active
in her army and in her council of advisors. It is not difficult to imagine
why a woman like Maxwell, persecuted by the Canadian settler state, would
take the name of a woman like Nzinga...

On March 14th, at 9 am, less than two weeks after her arrest at
the International Women's Day event, Wendy was deported. Authorities
refused to disclose flight details, keeping Wendy, her counsel and friends
in the dark until the last moment. However, Wendy was able to place a
brief call out from the airplane to her lawyer. A vigil took place at
Pearson Airport, at which friends and supporters read Wendy's poetry and
spoke out, leafleting passengers and standing together in this difficult

Wendy Maxwell, aka Nzinga, is now back in Costa Rica, but
the fight has only begun.
Supporters are rallying throughout
Canada to pressure the government to ensure that her case be assessed
quickly and that she be granted permanent residency on humanitarian and
compassionate grounds. It is also imperative that the racist Canadian
State that had the gall to deport be held accountable and responsible for
her safe and speedy return.

What can you do to help?

1) Sign the Online Petition at

2) Join the Support Wendy Maxwell mailing list by going here:

3) Telephone and/or fax Canada's Minister of Immigration Joe Volpe. Demand that Maxwell be granted permanent residency on Humanitarian and Compassionate grounds:








Let the Minister know that we know that, as a queer Black working
class woman, Maxwell faces the risk of violence and persecution from
numerous quarters in Costa Rica. According to the Toronto Rape Crisis
Centre she is still suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a
result of being sexually assaulted by the cops there before she first
came to Canada. This is Wendy Maxwell's home now, and this is where she

Even if you are not a Canadian or do not live in Canada, please
contact Joe Volpe at the above phone and/or fax numbers. It doesn't
matter if you are in Canada, the United States, or anywhere else. Pressure,
both national and international, can make a difference.

You can download a low-resolution (69K) PDF flyer with these phone
numbers by clicking here:

You can also download a 198K leaflet (triple-fold)
which contains almost all of the information on this page, by clicking

4) Money. Nobody has any and everybody always needs some, but if
there is any chance of people forking over a little cash, or hitting
up any organizations you may be involved with, or quickly organizing a
house party with a donation can, money is desperately needed. Depending
on how things go, Wendy may even be billed by the Canadian government for
the costs associated with her deportation, and this even if she is granted
permanent residency!

Donations can be maid out to the York Women Centre with a note
explaing it's for the Wendy Maxwell Fund and they should be mailed to...

Wendy Maxwell Support Committee
c/o the York Women's Centre
York University
4700 Keele St
Student Centre Room 322
Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3

5) Finally, you can stay tuned at this website for updates as
i manage to upload them. But for more indepth and current information,
i strongly encourage you to check out:

Also, you may want to check out Wendy's own website, put up and
maintained before her arrest:

Harambee website at


Statements and messages from Wendy Maxwell / Queen Nzinga:

Listen to Wendy Maxwell / Queen Nzinga's phone
call from Vanier "Centre for Women" (JAIL!)
(mp3 format - 11

You can download a low-resolution (69K)
PDF flyer with information about this case by clicking here:

You can also download a 198K leaflet (triple-fold) which contains
almost all of the information on this page, by clicking here:

Articles from the media:

Ryerson Speak Up For Wendy Maxwell

Related information and articles: