by Muriam Salman
Over 80,000 migrants, including children, have been jailed without charge or trial under the Harper government. Many of these people end up detained in maximum security jails while immigration officials decide whether or not to release them.
It is no wonder then, that undocumented residents in Toronto live under immense stress, faced with the daily fear of being detained or deported.
A new video series on YouTube Confront Injustice: Migrants Know Your Rights that is available in English, French and Spanish, was born out an urgent need for an innovative, proactive response to the distinct struggles faced by undocumented migrants living in Toronto.
“What I found especially troubling was that undocumented folks are the most at risk of incarceration and/or deportation when they attempt to access basic social services such as healthcare, education, shelter and food – support services that every person needs in order to live a life of dignity,” explains Yogi Acharya, the film’s producer. “We hoped to lay the groundwork, for people to be prepared, create a plan, and know the rights they have to protect themselves and their families.”
The video comes at a time when the Harper government is facing widespread public criticism on its changes to immigration policy. Most recently, a federal court upheld that cutting off health care for refugees before their hearings is “cruel and unusual” treatment.
The video complements the ‘Know Your Rights’ guide compiled by the Immigration Legal Committee which outlines strategies and addresses key questions about encounters with police or immigration officials in an accessible format.
Given the shift towards temporariness in immigration over the past 30 years, there are fewer paths to citizenship and increasing insecurity across all forms of status. Estimates of undocumented residents in Toronto currently lie around 200,000 and the recent moratorium on all restaurant workers, and recent changes from Bill C-24 will only add to that number.
“Sadly, precarious and undocumented migrants especially have very limited legal rights, so part of our goal is to capture and communicate those legal realities and how people can safety plan to reduce their vulnerability,” says Karin Baqi, a lawyer and member of No One Is Illegal-Toronto.
However prepared people may be, Acharya admits the real change will come with public pressure, especially from those who can afford to go public on these issues. “As one of the characters in the video says ‘if we actually want to stop immigration from tearing apart our communities, we really need to get together to organize.’ And knowing our limited rights while we do this is one crucial way we can keep ourselves and our families safe.”
To arrange a screening/workshop in your neighbourhood, email us at: [email protected]