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No One Is Illegal-Toronto: 2008 In Review

Oct 2 March and Rally2008 began with a global food crisis and is ending in a global economic crisis. The worst-hit are the poor and migrant people of the world that are forced out of their homes and cut off from their traditional forms of livelihood. The responsibility for these crises rests with the war-mongering, money-grabbing, domineering cities of the world that are the centres of western power. Toronto is one such city.

The struggle for justice for refugees and migrants is fought in every city in the world. Here in Toronto, we fight for Status for All. We resist the deportations of our community members; we fight to get shelter, emergency services and education; we struggle against discriminatory government policy and fight alongside our indigenous sisters and brothers that are reclaiming their sovereignty. We do this by organizing on the streets; working with migrant justice allies, grassroots initiatives, workers rights organizations, labor unions and students; and through film screenings, forums and over 70 presentations at community centres, agencies and union locals. This is a brief glimpse of some of this work.

[To find out about upcoming meetings and our plans for 2009; invite speakers to present on issues of migrant justice; get educational and outreach material and donate to our work, email nooneisillegal@riseup.net]

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RESISTING DEPORTATIONS
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11 January: A delegation of supporters of Mr. Laibar Singh, a paralyzed Punjabi man, visited the Toronto offices of Citizenship and Immigration Canada to protest continuing attempts to deport Mr. Singh. Supported by Sikh Activist Network.
---Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KRksVXMD4CQ

23 January: Alexander Kopylov is an independent activist journalist who wrote against the violence of the Russian state. Subsequently his newspaper was shut down, his car blew up, and he was told not to leave Rostov-on-Don. He fled Russia knowing his life was in danger. Alexander sought political refuge in Canada while organizing with No One Is Illegal-Toronto. He was deported on 23 January.

26 January: Over 300 demonstrators and community members protested outside Toronto's deportation factory, Greater Toronto Enforcement Centre, demanding status for Laibar Singh and Abdel-Kader Belaouni. After being denied refugee status by Canada's extremely flawed refugee determination system, Laibar Singh, a paralysed Punjabi refugee claimant, and Abdel-Kader Belaouni, a blind Algerian refugee claimant, were both slapped with deportation orders. Both men made the courageous and difficult
decision to not comply with their deportations, instead seeking sanctuary from supportive communities, Laibar in the Abbotsford Sahib Kalgidhar Darbar Gurudwara, and Kader in Montreal's St. Gabriel's church.
---Video: http://video.google.ca/videoplay?docid=4144838521505031239
---Update on Laibar Singh: http://toronto.nooneisillegal.org/node/245

26 March: DAMN 2025 and No One Is Illegal took a contingent to the Immigration Canada's offices to demand access for Abdel Kader Belaouni.
---Pictures: http://johnb.smugmug.com/gallery/4599782_BNKzG#271228078_BJmGW

27 June: Migrante Ontario and No One Is Illegal-Toronto organizers, activists and community members gathered outside Immigration Canada's offices to protest the removal of Juana Tejada, a migrant worker struggling against cancer. Juana fulfilled all the requirements of the live-in caregiver program to be eligible for permanent residence, but has been denied status because CIC deems her to be a burden to the health care system. Months later, Juana was finally granted status.
---Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_burFtuUms
---Statement: http://toronto.nooneisillegal.org/node/263

3 July: A press conference focusing on Maria Isabel Garcia Rivas, a domestic abuse survivor, and her three children facing deportation, was held at the Workers Action Centre. Isabel Garica is seeking refuge in Canada but the federal court denied a motion for temporary stay.
---Media: http://watch.ctv.ca/news/latest/fighting-to-stay/#clip64490;
http://toronto.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20080704/deportation_case...

8 July: No One Is Illegal-Toronto organised alongside parishoners from a Scarborough-based Presbyterian Church and Parkdale Community Legal Services to put a temporary stop to the deportation of single mother Jane Okojie and her children fleeing gender violence in Nigeria. A crowd of 40 community members gathered outside the Regional Offices of Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) for a spirited rally, supported by 519 Community Centre, EGALE, and Elizabeth Frye Societies.
---Media:
http://www.xtra.ca/public/viewstory.aspx?AFF_TYPE=3&STORY_ID=5082&PUB_TE...
http://www.thestar.com/article/457100

19 December: A press conference was held to pressure the Federal Court to review Jane Okojie's pre-removal risk assessment application. Though there was considerable coverage, the Courts refused to review Jane's case.
---Video and media:
http://www.torontosun.com/news/torontoandgta/2008/12/19/7799986-sun.html ;
http://www.xtra.ca/public/Toronto/Bisexual_woman_waits_for_decision_on_d...
; http://www.thestar.com/News/GTA/article/457633

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ACCESS WITHOUT FEAR: FIGHTING FOR STATUS FROM THE GROUND UP!
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26 March: Shaken by the outrage of hundreds of protesters who poured into York University's Vary Hall on Wednesday, Immigration Canada was forced to grant Sarah (Saint-Sierra) Leonty a 2 year stay in Canada while her Humanitarian and Compassionate Application is processed. Sarah bravely stated, "This is not just about my case. York University should take the lead in implementing a Don't Ask, Don't Tell Policy so that all students can access education, regardless of their immigration status."
---Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EsKLJ6rynC8

15 May: Over 70 frontline community workers and local residents packed Central Neighbourhood House for an Access Without Fear-DADT Community Meeting. The participants discussed ideas for making services accessible to non-status residents, and concrete strategies to implement Don't Ask Don't Tell policies in community spaces and workplaces across the city.

22 May: Over 75 protesters from No One Is Illegal-Toronto, Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, Black Action Defense Committee, Workers Action Centre and Justice for Migrant Workers rallied outside Toronto Police Headquarters to demand that Police stop doing Immigration Enforcement's dirty work. The Immigration Legal Committee released a report outlining all the failures of Toronto police to "serve and protect" undocumented communities, laying out the legal basis of a Don't Ask Don't Tell policy for Police services.

11 June: Community Social Planning Council of Toronto released the Right to Learn: Access to Education report. Premier of Ontario McGuinty states that all students have access to education, regardless of immigration status.

22 September: Reports of ongoing barriers to schools for undocumented students spurred No One Is Illegal-Toronto to organize a press conference demanding that the Toronto District School Board implement the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy that communities won two years ago.
---Media:
http://www.ccn365.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1784&Ite...

30 September: Over 300 students and community members from across Toronto gathered at University of Toronto in an outpour of protest against Saad Alam's deportation. The rally demanded that the University immediately implement an Access Without Fear policy for undocumented students.
---Video and Media: http://toronto.nooneisillegal.org/node/225

2 October: The fight for access to services and justice and dignity for migrant women took a giant leap forward on October 2 as national, provincial and local women's groups and community organizations launched a campaign across Canada for Shelter, Sanctuary, Status. Hundreds participated in a forum and rally in Toronto, with coordinated actions in Vancouver and Montreal.
---Video and Media: http://toronto.nooneisillegal.org/node/228

18 November: On November 18 the No One Is Illegal Student Network presented Beyond Borders, the first NOII conference for high school students. Over 170 students participated in the full-day conference. Workshops and presentations throughout the day included:Student Organizing: Access to Education; The Workforce: Canada Exploiting Migrants; Stolen Land: Struggles of Indigenous People; Global Justice: Fighting War, Poverty and Racism; No Cops: Organizing Against Police in Schools; Myths and Realities of Immigration. The day ended with a powerful performance from Stolen From Africa.

20 November: Immigrants, racialised communities and precarious and non-status people suffered a setback as the Toronto Police Services Board unilaterally and without consultation voted to continue reporting Immigration Status to Border Enforcement. A consultation had been promised on 22 March 2007 but the committee looking into the issue was quietly disbanded today without community present.
---Media:
http://www.canada.com/topics/news/story.html?id=e060308a-5681-4cc6-89a3-...
http://www.thestar.com/article/540891

25 November: On the International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women, 50 women from 30 anti-violence against women organizations in Toronto attended the first in a workshops series for the Shelter.Sanctuary.Status campaign.

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STRUGGLING AGAINST DISCRIMINATORY GOVERNMENT POLICY: JUSTICE FOR MIGRANT WORKERS, STOP THE RAIDS. SCRAP BILL C-50
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22 January: No One Is Illegal-Toronto deputed at Citizenship of Immigration Canada's consultation on the proposed Canadian Experience Class, demanding a full and inclusive regularization program.

8 March: On International Women's Day, No One Is Illegal, together with Migrante Ontario, Justice for Migrant Workers, the Worker's Action Centre and the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid organised a strong contingent of Migrant Women, Women of Colour and Allies. We marched to bring attention to the racism, insecurity in our work, and precarious temporary status faced by migrant women on a daily basis.

9 March: Dozens of people attended Raise Our Fists! Migrant Women Fight Back!, featuring speakers from Migrante Ontario, No One Is Illegal and Justice for Migrant Workers, as well as the chairperson of Migrante International. The voices of migrant women were forefronted in this community forum focusing on building resistance to Canada's exploitive temporary work programs.

14 March: The Conservative government introduced a series of amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), buried in Bill C-50, a 136-page budget implementation bill. No One Is Illegal-Toronto, No One Is Illegal-Vancouver and No One Is Illegal-Montreal released a statement condemning this flagrant attack on non-status people:
---Statement: http://toronto.nooneisillegal.org/node/261

9 April: No One Is Illegal Toronto spoke out against Bill C-50 at the House Committee on Citizenship and Immigration public hearings on four topics: undocumented workers, temporary foreign workers, immigration consultants and Iraqi refugees.

16 April: No One Is Illegal Toronto was invited to speak outside Bob Rae's Office demanding that the liberals vote against Bill C50

7 May: The Canada Border Services Agency, in collaboration with the Peel Police, carried out a brutal workplace raid on SDR Distributors, a warehouse in Mississauga. SDR's warehouse was barricaded by Peel Regional Police while CBSA immigration agents swept through the plant checking ID's and arresting 45 undocumented women and men, before throwing them in detention. This was the first raid of this scale in Canada and marked a shift toward US-style enforcement practices in Canada. This was a serious escalation of anti-migrant rhetoric and tactics by Harper's government
which in light of the changes to IRPA in Bill C-50 barely a month before showcased the Conservatives' intention to isolate, exploit and brutalize migrant communities.
---Statement: http://toronto.nooneisillegal.org/node/262

15 May: No One Is Illegal-Toronto spoke at a community forum organized by the Council of Agencies Serving South Asians in Markham.

21 May: No One Is Illegal hosted a public meeting to discuss a response to the unprecedented escalation of immigration enforcement tactics. Migrant justice organizations and community groups from across the city attended to share ideas and come up with responses to the attacks, resulting in a Week of Action from May 31 to June 7.

31 May - 7 June: No One Is Illegal Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver organized a National Week of Action against Bill C50 and the SDR Raids. Hundreds rallied in the three cities, with daily actions in Toronto and Mississauga culminating in a massive action at the Greater Toronto Enforcement Centre.
---Media: http://www.mississauga.com/article/14654 for 31 May

22 July: Organizers picketed outside the Park Hyatt Hotel shutting down Minister Diane Finley's consultations on the implementation of Bill C-50. These so-called 'consultations' behind closed doors only included big businesses, ignoring community voices.
---Pictures: http://johnb.smugmug.com/gallery/5504508_rR3Wo#336815061_vAqpB

06 December: No One Is Illegal organiser spoke at CUPE Ontario Women's Conference and facilitated a discussion on migrant workers.

14 December: No One Is Illegal visits migrant farmers fired and facing deportation on Rol-Land farms after the successful decision to allow unionizing of farmworkers. Actions are planned for 2009
---Details: http://www.justicia4migrantworkers.org/

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SUPPORTING INDIGENOUS SOVEREIGNTY
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12 February: With the 2010 Winter Olympics scheduled to occur on unceded Coast Salish, St'at'imc and Squamish territory in two years, the spectacle surrounding them continues to wreak havoc on Indigenous people, poor people, and the Earth. No One Is Illegal helped to organize the Toronto portion of an east coast tour by Kanahus Pellkey of the Native Youth Movement and Native youth Dustin Johnson. This presentation helped to build a strong push for organizing around the 2010 Olympics in Toronto.

29 April: After the arrest of Mohawk people at Tyendinaga, over 40 people including a dozen members of No One Is Illegal rallied at the Attorney General's office on Bay Street in Toronto to demand the release of Native political prisoners (including Shawn Brant) and called for the return of the Culbertson Tract to the Mohawks of Tyendinaga.
---Pictures: http://johnb.smugmug.com/gallery/4825894_csdrv#287115154_Gcqen

26 May: As indigenous marchers congregated on Queen's park from Grassy Narrows and KI First Nations, No One Is Illegal collaborated with dozens of organizations across the city to hold the Gathering of Mother Earth Protectors Rally. Calling for the release from prison of Bob Lovelace and the KI Six, No One Is Illegal participated in security, planning, coordination and outreach for the Toronto solidarity rally. Bob Lovelace and the KI Six were released from prison following these rallies.

24 August: No One Is Illegal conducted a workshop around the struggles for migrant rights and the need for indigenous solidarity at the Peace and Friendship Gathering. The presentation took place at Six Nations and included dozens of both indigenous and non-indigenous organizers.

25 August: In solidarity with the Anti-2010 Olympics campaign, No One Is Illegal-Toronto held a flag raising ceremony at the CBC Headquarters to kick off the Toronto resistance to the 2010 Vancouver Olympics on stolen native land. Dozens of organizers and supporters raised the Native Youth Movement's Anti-2010 Flag and spoke out against the G8 and SPP.
---Video: http://www.youtube.com/v/HQkTW90z27k

13 October: On Thanksgiving Monday, 30 protesters boarded buses from Toronto's downtown Union Station to head to Cooksville Station in Mississauga where the Olympic Spirit Train was arriving to build support for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. The activists were joined with 20 other activists in Mississauga carrying out a sprited picket for an hour.
---Video: http://toronto.nooneisillegal.org/node/242

21 November: Some 40 supporters of the Barriere Lake Solidarity Committee in Toronto, blocked Queen Street West at noon today for nearly 30 minutes in an act of solidarity with the community of Barriere Lake in Quebec. During the blockade, leaflets were handed out explaining the current situation in the community. The action was held in front of the building that houses Quebec's representative office in Toronto, the "Bureau du Québec à Toronto."
---Video and Media: http://toronto.nooneisillegal.org/node/258

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SUPPORTING PEOPLE RISING
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A number of grassroots communities have begun to reclaim their power and mobilize their way out of crushing poverty and marginalization. As people without full immigration status and allies, No One Is Illegal-Toronto's members are embedded in these communities and working together to create many pockets of resistance across the city. In 2008, three of these organizations that NOII-Toronto worked with are:

SOUTH ASIAN WOMEN'S RIGHTS ORGANIZATION
(in their own words) South Asian Women's Rights Organization is a grass-roots, member led organization which is seeking to have settlement services under the control of the affected communities. Numerous immigrant settlement programs exist in Teesdale, Scarborough but the community (largely Bengali women) is not achieving success through these services. Existing services look at the women as passive consumers of services. SAWRO's view is that only when community women themselves take
up defining and resolving the problems will the situation change.

SAWRO has over 120 members that are part of conversation classes, a sewing club, a home based child care training program and large-scale community meetings. Organizers facilitate weekly workshops on issues of concern and develop a political mandate. NOII-Toronto organizers are part of SAWRO's board and assist with administrative, legal, financial and child care initiatives. SAWRO organizers actively participate in NOII-Toronto decision making and mobilizations. In January 2008, NOII-Toronto is beginning an 18 week youth political organizing initiative with members of the organization.

SIKH ACTIVIST NETWORK
(in their own words) The Sikh Activist Network will work to reignite the culture of social activism in the Sikh path. The Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) represents our manifesto and inspiration for social change. It advocates a message of love for all and the equality of all people regardless of their caste, color, creed, gender or sex. The SGGS promotes the pursuit of a society which embodies these principles. We call upon all people to stand united against social injustice and oppression. We urge
all people to join in the resistance against the forces of imperialism, capitalism, and neo colonialism, which subject our people to exploitation and degradation. In our struggle we recognize that racism and sexism are products of capitalism, classism and casteism. Inspired by Sikh spirituality we hold equality as our cornerstone. We will develop and work through non hierarchal grassroots initiatives with all communities to achieve our goals.

Sikh Activist Network is a collective of nearly a dozen organizers with a network of hundreds of Sikh Youth in Gurdwaras and community centres. NOII-Toronto has worked alongside SAN organizers to establish the organization which has been pivotal in the Laibar Singh mobilizations. NOII-Toronto will be collaborating with SAN to organize a youth political organizing initiative.

MUJERES AL FRENTE
(in their own words) Is a support group of LBTIQ Women and Transgender Persons proceeding from Mexico, Center and South America working in Toronto, Canada. The group was created in March of 2006 when Refugee Lesbian Women proceeding from Latin America started to face serious difficulties in their daily life because of speaking a new language and adapting themselves to a life in a foreign country.

No One Is Illegal-Toronto has worked closely with Mujeres Al Frente to organise joint events and workshops, as well as to do outreach around the Shelter Sanctuary Status campaign and to mobilize women and trans-folks in the struggle for migrant justice.

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CREATIVE RESISTANCE
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24 January: A film screening of WETBACK: The Undocumented Documentary with an introduction by director Arturo Torres, and following panel focused on the biased refugee board decisions faced by queer migrants. The over 100 people in attendance heard from community workers and people facing deportation how we can fight back and organise to challenge these deportations.

29 February: Despite falling on the same day as a massive snow storm, Beyond Borders, the Launch Party and Fundraiser for the May 3rd National Day of Action was a huge success. The night featured performances from LAL; SPIN; Ruben Esguerra; Stolen from Africa; PATAC; Sun; the Arab Resistance Collective; Mr.Bones and others.

July-August: The TAXI Project is an initiative of PEN Canada and the Art for Real Change Collective. It is an original play exploring issues of freedom of expression and the complex realities of living in exile. This initiative was supported by No One Is Illegal-Toronto where we delivered a workshop challenging the myths of Canadian multiculturalism after each performance.

24 September: Crossing Arizona, the award winning film by Joseph Mathew and Dan Devivo, is screened by the No One Is Illegal Student Network.

4 December: Local performance powerhouses Lal organized a benefit concert for No One Is Illegal-Toronto called Sanctuary City, along with Amai Kuda, D'bi Young, Musfique al Haq and band, and DJ No Capitalista that brought out hundreds of people to party and raise funds for migrant justice work.

10 December: The AGO Youth Council's launched its final 2008 project, Lets Talk, Listen and Get to Know Each Other; We Are All Human; a collaboration with lead artist Srimoyee Mitra in conjunction with No One Is Illegal Toronto.

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MAY DAY OF ACTION
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3 May: Every day the fight against deportations takes place across this city, this province and this country. The battle is in courthouses, in shelters, in schools, in hospitals and outside enforcement offices. A large part of the struggle is on the streets. 3 May 2008 saw the streets in Toronto's west end filled with two thousand demonstrators joining the resistance in pouring rain as part of the May Day of Action for Status for All. As the thousands of people clustered in the rain at Christie Pitts Park chanted "Status for All" and "No One Is Illegal", red placards
demanding 'access without fear'; 'education not deportation' and 'no to bill C-50' colored the sea of protestors while flags waved in the streets. A community fair with performances and free food followed after.
---Pictures: http://johnb.smugmug.com/gallery/4857713_fHwza#289349146_8ernH

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THANKS!
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No One Is Illegal-Toronto would like to specially thank all the organizations and individuals that mobilized, endorsed, participated in, attended or supported our events and campaigns throughout the year. We know that the successes we have achieved, and the victories that we have been part of would not have been achieveable without the support we have received. We hope that in 2009, your continued support and participation will help the movement continue to grow.