pj lilley on Tue, 12 Oct 1999 08:40:24 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Greetings from afar...

Dear Friends,

Good afternoon, and solidarity greetings to you from toronto! 

Although we are not struggling directly with Fortress Europe, we who
labour under the state of canada are experiencing the same sort of
anti-immigrant policies, particularly directed against the poor and people
of colour. 

Tomorrow, in Toronto, the Minister of Immigration is meeting with various
representatives of corporate canada to discuss accreditation policies. 
These are the kind of policies which would simultaneously make it easier
for those with money and expensive education to come here, but harder for
those who may not speak English, or who don't happen to have the narrow
set of technological skills that industry wants to attract.  The meeting
will be held at a $100/plate dinner at a fancy downtown hotel, so
naturally, we're organizing a counter demonstration to this fiasco.  Here
are the details: 

			   7PM  *  Toronto
	(1 Harbour Square at the foot of Bay St. near the lake)

	October 12th is Columbus day. It is ironic that the Minister of
	Immigration will be holding a reception to kick off a conference
	on the regulation of work and immigration on this date. The
	Campaign To Defend Immigrants and Refugees will be holding a
	demonstration at this reception to confront the minister on the
	proposed racist and class biased changes to the immigration system
	and to protest the treatment of recent refugees from Asia. Please
	join us and help spread the word.

	More info: 416-812-6898
We have been busy lately, hosting an amazing benefit fundraiser party for
our conference, which was held last weekend at a local labour hall. 
Several outspoken labour and social justice activists were there for a
panel presentation and discussion on building an anti-racist movement to
defend refugees and immigrants.  It was moderately well attended (for a
rainy sunday!) and it was a good step towards broadening the Campaign and
building for upcoming action against the Liberal governments new
immigration proposals. 

Over the past few months, there has been an ugly racist backlash in the
mainstream and even ethnic media against the boatloads of refugees from
China who have landed on Vancouver Island.  Much of the rhetoric from the
right wing in Canada calling for an immediate deportation law has been
based upon the insult of calling these refugees "economic migrants" as if
poverty is somehow not a real reason to move.  Several demonstrations
against the racist right and a couple of "welcoming parties" for the
refugees have been organized as a result, but they are still being
detained on a military base. 

And setting up makeshift concentration camps seems to be the main
pre-occupation of the Canadian government these days.  5,000 refugees from
Kosov@ were held at a military base in Ontario until many opted to fly
back... this being trotted out as a 'humanitarian' response of the highest
level of government.  All the while, hundreds of refugees and new
immigrants to Canada are detained in prison, or in half-prisons like the
"Celebrity Inn" -- a minimum security containment zone in a locked down
wing of a hotel next to the airport, where the conditions of crowding and
poor nutrition are atrocious, but the rich with proper passports
nonetheless continue to stay in the other half of the hotel. 

The federal government, a full-on neo-liberal one with the racist Reform
Party as it's opposition, is trying to introduce this fall something
called Bill C-63, which is a citizenship act.  It would effectively create
two tiers of citizenship in Canada -- remove layers of independence in the
adjudications and hearings procedures, make waiting times longer,
citizenship tests harder, and generally hit not only new immigrants and
refugees, but also those who have been here for years, and even affect
their children's status.  As a change to the citizenship act, it is like a
precursor to more tight regulation of immigration directly.  And with the
uproar over the Chinese refugees, the Reform Party is also hopping around
demanding a 7-day turnaround deportation law, which would 'streamline'
refugee hearings to the ridiculous point of absolutely no justice, simply
beaurocratic whim deciding who gets in. 

Our resistance has been focused on building the Campaign to Defend
Refugees and Immigrants as a coalition of different anti-racist groups,
agencies serving immigrants, along with legal and direct action defense
groups.  We are trying to send a united message to the media and the
public to first SLOW DOWN and not pass stupid laws in haste, and second,
we have been organizing opposition to Bill C-63, creating info pamphlets,
flyers, posters and perhaps soon a website.  We have also been working on
building our networking with activists doing similar work in Vancouver and
Victoria, and we are hoping to start more co-ordinated Campaign work with
them in the future.  Within OCAP, which is an anti-poverty direct action
group here in Toronto, we have Team Immigration! which organizes action
around individual cases, and we have had some small successes here,
although the need is so much greater. 

We would like to keep in touch with what is happening around Europe, and
want you to know that your resistance efforts are an inspiration to us. I
visited Amsterdam for the most recent Next 5 Minutes conference and was
most provoked into thought of a new 'internationale' by the Migration
Meeting which took place there.  I brought back the "No One Is Illegal" 
slogan and many new tactical ideas to warm reception here, so we will
definitely continue to send news of the struggle here back to you, and
thanks for your on-going efforts.  You can continue to send messages to
myself at this e-mail, but also we have a list now for the Campaign at
<refugee-defence@lists.tao.ca> or e-mail <smashborders@yahoo.com>.  I
don't know if I have a mobile phone number to give you for the
demonstration tomorrow, but I'll take some digital photos and send them
along.  Wishing you great success with your actions this week! 

best regards,
in solidarity,
  pj lilley,
  campaign to defend refugees and immigrants, toronto
  (TAO toronto -- 416.812.6765)

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