A round 500 people met at Place Norman-Bethune on October 10 to participate in a march against deportations, organized by Solidarity Across Borders, the Non-Status Action Committee, the Action Committee Against the Dominican Republic’s 168-13 Declaration, and the Let’s Unite Campaign.
The march was organized to start right after an earlier protest that same day against the Energy East and Enbridge pipelines, organized by Étudiant(e)s contre les oléoducs (ÉCO); some demonstrators from this previous march joined the protest against deportations to show inter-movement solidarity.
Before the protest started, activists representing various migrant justice organizations and campaigns gave speeches.The first person to speak was Ellen Gabriel, a Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) activist from Kanehsatà:ke, a Mohawk community which was besieged by the Canadian army and Suréte du Québec (SQ) police during the Oka Crisis 25 years ago.
Speaking to the crowd, Gabriel said, “I say to the people who are immigrants or are people who are families of migrant workers, we know how you feel, because that’s how Indigenous people have felt.”
“We have been told that we do not have rights to our land. We are dealt with like homeless in our homeland, and when we cross borders – the imposed borders on our traditional territory – to visit our relatives on what is known as the United States, we have to have identification that’s issued from the Government of Canada, the colonizer,” Gabriel continued.
Another speaker was Serge Bouchereau, head of the Non-Status Action Committee, who spoke about the troubles faced by Zimbabweans, and by Dominicans of Haitian origins.
“I say to the people who are immigrants or are people who are families of migrant workers, we know how you feel, because that’s how Indigenous people have felt.”
“We have sent a letter to Prime Minister [Stephen] Harper, who has refused us reception and has delegated this letter to his Minister [of Citizenship and Immigration Chris] Alexander. And until now, until this moment at which I’m speaking to you, we’ve had no response from Mr. Harper.” Bouchereau told the crowd in French.
To illustrate his point, Bouchereau mentioned the plight of a family who was present at the march. The family includes three children, one of whom was born in Canada. The family was sent a deportation letter on September 18 and are expected to leave Canada by October 17.
“Since when does the law allow for the deportation of Canadian citizens?” Bouchereau asked the crowd.
Franz André, a spokesperson for the Action Committee Against the Dominican Republic’s 168-13 Declaration, explained that Dominicans of Haitian origins are also discriminated against in the Dominican Republic.
The 168-13 Declaration, made by the Constitutional Court of the Dominican Republic, retroactively revoked the citizenship of people of Haitian origins who had migrated to the Dominican Republic since 1929 or who are descendants of these people born in the Dominican Republic.
“We currently have a situation in the Dominican Republic where more than a quarter million Dominicans have had their citizenships revoked since September 23, 2013. These are people who have lost all of their civic rights, who cannot go to school, who cannot use health services, who cannot travel, who cannot acquire passports,” André told the crowd in French.
“It’s obvious that the Harper government is detrimental to basic human rights and especially when it comes to refugees.”
Robert McBryde, a member of the Council of Canadians, told The Daily that it is important to show solidarity with refugees and immigrants.
“It’s obvious that the Harper government is detrimental to basic human rights and especially when it comes to refugees. […] We have to push from a grassroots level so that political parties will adopt more – in this case – refugee-friendly policies,” McBryde said.
After the speeches, the demonstrators marched east on Ste. Catherine towards Phillips Square, chanting “So-so-so-solidarité, avec les refugés, avec les sans-papiers” (“So-so-so-solidarity with refugees, with the undocumented”).
Solidarity Across Borders, on principle, refused to provide the itinerary to the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM), thereby making the march illegal under municipal by-law P-6. Even though the police did not declare the march illegal, the demonstrators were accompanied by riot police.
Upon the arrival of the march at the corner of Ste. Catherine and Union, riot police initially prevented the demonstrators from entering the square. In response, the sound system truck that had been leading the march started to play music and the demonstrators danced and chanted in the middle of the street.
Eventually, the police yielded and the demonstrators entered the square to hang a banner that read “Open the borders!” on the monument of King Edward VIII, while continuing to sing and dance.