About fifty people gathered for a flash mob in downtown Montreal last Friday evening to bring attention to Bill C-4, the Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada’s Immigration System Act.
The demonstration was organized by the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) and B. Refuge – a working group of QPIRG-McGill – as part of the Canada Can Do Better Campaign, an advocacy effort for non-citizen youth in Canada.
The bill seeks to crack down on human smuggling into Canada by expanding the government’s ability to detain and prosecute those involved in smuggling operations, including a measure authorizing mandatory one-year detainment. Organizers of CCR and B. Refuge’s campaign worry that the law will result in more detainment of children and separation of children from their families.
Organizers had announced that the flash mob would take place in Gare Centrale, where participants would sing and gather signatures for a petition calling for reform of Canada’s laws regarding detainment of non-citizen children. However, when the flash mob arrived Friday afternoon, they were told by security that they could not hold their demonstration in the station, despite having received prior approval from the police.
“I explained to them that it’s like I’m going to go dance in your house at 3 a.m.,” a security guard at the station said. “It’s a good cause, but it’s private property.”
According to the guard, the station’s main concourse is owned by Canmarc, a real estate investment trust based in Montreal.
After a discussion with security, the group headed to Phillips Square and marched about a
block on Ste. Catherine, singing lyrics calling for a stop to C-4 to the tune of “Frère Jacques.”
Olivia Dogget, a U3 Cultural Studies Honours student who is handling public relations for the campaign, expressed some disappointment about security’s decision not to let the flash mob occur in the train station, but said she thought the demonstration had achieved its goal.
“We still got the message across, even if not in the original form,” she said as the march halted on Ste. Catherine.
“I think a lot of people are unaware that Canada has immigrant detention centers. They’re overcrowded and don’t meet family needs. How can you expect [children] not to have a traumatic experience?” she asked.
At least one bystander sympathized with the cause. Chantal Khoury, a Concordia Fine Arts student in her fourth year who was sitting with a friend nearby, said, “we just found out about it. I’m all for stopping it [Bill C-4].”