Monday, July 02, 2018

Families Belong Together

I helped organize the #FamiliesBelongTogether solidarity rally in Edmonton on June 30. Here is my speech and a video of my introductory words and chants.


Thank you for coming this afternoon. We respectfully acknowledge that we are located on Treaty 6 territory, a traditional gathering place for diverse Indigenous peoples including the Cree, Blackfoot, M├ętis, Nakota Sioux, Iroquois, Dene, Ojibway / Saulteaux / Anishinaabe, Inuit, and many others whose histories, languages, and cultures continue to influence our vibrant community.

My name is Paula Kirman, and I am with the March On Edmonton Collective and the Edmonton Coalition Against War and Racism, the co-organizers of this event. We would also like to give thanks to the Alberta Federation of Labour for help with logistics, as well as Women for Rights and Empowerment, and No One Is Illegal.

Please tweet and Instagram and Facebook from today and join the cities around the world who are all standing up for the rights of refugees and families today. The hashtags are #KeepFamiliesTogether #FamiliesBelongTogether #RefugeesWelcome as well as our local city #Yeg hashtag.

We are here today to call upon the Canadian government to demand that the U.S. end child detention and to stop criminalizing refugees! Families belong together, and those who have been separated must be reunited. But we are hearing disturbing news that the location of many of these children who have been detained is unknown, that they are not receiving comfort or care, and are likely to be in physical danger due to lack of proper oversights. The emotional scars that these children are receiving will affect them for life.

And the new Executive Order that was signed is not going to make things better. While supposedly ending detention of children, it has brought in indefinite detention of families – and indefinite detention is against international law. We are calling for an end to all refugee detention - not just those of children.

Today and every day, we must call on Canada's federal government to:

  • Condemn the US's exclusionary, racist, and unjust detention and deportation policies in the strongest terms.
  • Scrap the Safe Third Country Agreement
  • Scrap the Designated Country of Origin list, and end the quota restrictions on refugee claimants and asylum seekers
  • End immigration detention and deportation in Canada.
  • Grant Permanent Resident Status to all undocumented and migrant people in Canada, including everyone who has crossed over from the United States.
  • Reckon with all its historic and current practice of family separation of Indigenous, Black and Brown children from their families through slavery and colonization.

    Indeed, we also stand here today to acknowledge Canada's role in separating families, through the history of residential schools, the 60s Scoop, and the continued practise of removing children from Indigenous families and placing them into foster care. In addition, we must examine our country's own treatment of refugee children. In 2016-2017, Canada jailed 162 minors, 11 of whom were unaccompanied. In 2015-2016, the number was 201, 20 of whom were unaccompanied. At least six people have died in immigration detention custody since Prime Minister Trudeau came to power.

    As well, today we have live-in-caregivers in Canada who are bureaucratically separated from their children back in the Philippines. Confusing changes were made in 2014 to Canadian immigration rules which has resulted in permanent resident status for live-in caregivers converting to possible citizenship being blocked, thus preventing family reunification. These changes were devised and implemented by Jason Kenney when he was in Stephen Harper's cabinet.

    What can we do? We need to keep pressure on our Prime Minister, Immigration Minister, and our MPs. Several people are here today handing out letters that you can sign and send. We also have sample wordings and links to the email addresses of federal politicians on our social media and Facebook event for today – we are @WMWYEG on all platforms if you want to connect and get more information.

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