It was a cold wintery Montreal Sunday last week, when sixty or so people joined a Solidarity Across Borders (SAB) caravan/roaming demo, starting at Rosemont metro and making its way to the Immigration Prevention Center in Laval. As SAB had explained in its callout:
For over a decade, Mohammad Mahjoub, Mohamed Harkat, and Mahmoud Jaballah have been fighting their detention in Canada. The three were arrested under immigration “security certificates”, which allow the government to arrest people without charge according to their profile, detain them indefinitely, and eventually deport them.It was against this reality, of borders becoming ever more deadly as canadian imperialism revs up its engines for new cycles of accumulation/devastation, that we rallied, chanted, waved our banners and tried to keep warm. That this demo took place outside a prison where targeted migrants are detained, at times for years on end, is all the more appropriate given the significance of incarceration in the strategy of the current government for the times to come.
Although their cases are extreme, Mahjoub, Harkat and Jaballah are only three of the thousands of migrants who are imprisoned because they don’t have citizenship. Furthermore, Bill C-31 will be implemented this week, permitting the government to automatically detain groups of migrants for up to a year if they are deemed to have entered Canada by “irregular means”. This will likely mean that more migrants will be detained for longer periods of time.
Many of the speeches at the rally were really good, but i must admit one of the best was that of Farha Najah Hussain on behalf of the South Asian Women's Community Centre (SAWCC). It is reposted here with permission:
Je fais partie du Centre communautaire des femmes sud-asiatiques, qui est un centre qui a débuté comme collectif de jeunes femmes d'origines sud-asiatiques afin de confronter le patriarcat et les manières dont cette violence ce manifeste, soit au niveau interpersonnelle ou celle de l'état, particulièrement pour les femmes et commaunautés immigrantes.
Le centre continue d'être solidaire avec Mohammad Mahjoub, Mohamed Harkat, et Mahmoud Jaballah contre les lois et conditions
d'arrestation injustes et inhumains.
As we discussed the endorsement of this event, we gathered at the South Asian Women's Community Centre (SAWCC). One woman declared, “Is this even a question? Of course, we must endorse this caravan to the detention centre”. Another said “For years, we have been supporting the struggle to abolish security certificates – which were unanimously voted as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2007 – the struggle clearly continues”.
The discussion did not end, “Now, an increase in detention because of Bill C-31, which is now law, further precarity, more family separation, increased desperation amongst migrants, gendered and racialised bodies.” Suddenly, it seemed as though silence overcame a dozen fierce Womyn sitting around the meeting table that night. Many whose friends, family and community members have faced layers of interpersonal and state violence, including having gone through detention, and subsequently being deported.
Like that SAWCC monthly meeting, I come here today being somewhat at a loss of words but immersed in fury, recognising that for generations people have declared that no human being is illegal, that people continue to fight against a racist immigration system, after hundreds of years of Indigenous people fighting a war against colonialism and risking their lives for land sovereignty from the Canadian state's flawed borders, recognising that people with precarious immigration status courageously confront barriers to accessible housing, education and health, after voices have denounced prison walls that keep people from migrating, from living, from breathing.
And so in the midst of being speechless, I bring today solidarity and rage, utter rage, rage rooted in reading a sign for the nth time that reads “Immigration Prevention Centre,” rage that manifests through the memories of visiting friends and community members in detention. Reminiscing over a conversation with a fierce ammi. In September 2009, she told me her story when border agents abducted her and her kids in a window-tinted car while they were walking the streets of Parc-Extension, and were subsequently detained. “Jub seh mera panch saal ka bacha geriftaar hwa heh jub seh vo baat nahee kartah heh”. Ever since my 5 year child was imprisoned, he no longer speaks. Trauma.
This rage is rooted in the beginning of a friendship, with a strong, funny, intelligent, and fierce young woman, having taken steps to confront the sexual assault she has faced while confronting state violence, and living with precarious immigration status. We first met behind these walls as she struggled to breath in the context of a neurological condition, and the inhumane conditions she and other detainees faced. Yeh to ek Ked khana heh. “This is a prison” she said.
This rage is affirmed in the voices, the stories of people with beating hearts who were or are caged and traumatised, every day as they- as you - struggle for dignity.
There is tremendous collective rage amongst us here, across concrete walls, and across borders. Perhaps my speechlessness comes from knowing that words may not fully be able to articulate the depth and degree of collective fury, but our actions have, do, and will. And I trust that one day, we will see a world where people can migrate freely. Just like the kids in my life cross the street when they play street hockey, so will people be able to move across what were once imaginary lines drawn on the asphalt, without fearing persecution or detention.
I will end my speechlessness by words inspired by poet June Jordan, We will win Against the State (of things).