On November 1, 1994 Sergio Marchi, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration,introduced the Federal government's Long Term Immigration and Citizenship Strategy for Canada (LTICS). The strategy fine tuned a policy to "protect Canadians and Canadian health and social welfare programs" from the burden of refugees and immigrants. Not only is the federal government tightening the border, but under the rhetoric of "enriching Canada's social fabric", the federal government has initiated a long term agenda of re-Europeanizing Canada's immigration.
Central to this initiative has been the enactment of Bill C-44 which passed in the House of Commons on February 7, 1995. Bill C-44 is setup to facilitate and coordinate communication between Immigration Canada, The Canadian Security Intelligence Service, The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, local provincial and municipal police forces, the Correctional Service of Canada and private/public transportation agencies. This increased communication will integrate immigration control and enforcement of the governments' Long Term Immigration and Citizenship Strategy.
Fundamental to the Long Term Strategy is the development of policy and procedures for detention and deportation of people who do not qualify for Cana dian citizenship. According to Sergio Manchi "Our citizenship is not just a right. It is a privilege..." This privilege is available to people who can pay the $975.00 right of landing fee and a $500.00 processing fee, speak English or French and invest financially. The unfortunate reality is that the immigration strategy of the Canadian government is base on economic and cultural discrimination which disproportionately affects people of non-European decent.
In order to justify this racist agenda the participant agencies involved in Bill C-44 have increased the criminalization of non-European individuals in Canada. In Ontario this process was exposed by the Report of the Commission on Systemic Racism in the Ontario Justice System. The Report found that every level of the Criminal Justice System had serious problems of systemic racism; From the police's discretion to stop, arrest, detain and shoot, to the crown attorney's discretion to lay charges, to review charges, to avoid court proceedings an d provide pre-trial resolutions. The systemic racism in the criminal justice system that the report outlined explained the reason for the disproportionate representation of non-European Ontarians in Canadian prisons.
Despite the evidence that suggest a systemic cause for the high incarceration rates in non-European groups in Ontario, the public continues to link high incarceration rates with criminal behaviour. This mis-informed assumption is nationwide and is the premise for the federal government's LTICS.
Under the auspice of protecting Canadians Immigration Canada has substantially increased the number of deportations carried out. According to Immigration Operations- Control & Intelligence, 2379 removals were carried out in 1989. By 1993 this had increased to 8296, attributed to a general rise in overall immigration. 1200 of those deported in 1993 where labelled criminals. Two years later, total immigration to Canada was brought back down to the immigration levels of 1989. However, deportation levels in 1995 were double the 1989 figure. The deportation of 'criminals' increased to 1756 or 36.6% of all deportations.
The increase in deportation of 'criminals' is a result of Bill C-44. Not only does Bill C-44 coordinate communication between immigration officials a[And law enforcement agencies but it streamlines the procedure for the deportation of 'criminals'. Despite the general lack of interest for the civil and human rights of convicted criminals. Bill C-44 has striped away the fundamental rights of people without Canadian citizenship who are convicted of a crime in Canada. The policies and procedures setup under Bill C-44 violate the Correctional Service of Canada's policy on inmates correctional plan for being re-united with their family and rehabilitated.
According to a prisoner at a federal correctional facility in Ontario, "the over-zealous attitude of the Immigration Department's removal section detains inmates for an indefinite amount of time before carrying out the deportation order. This is called, a 'deportation hold'. This prevents all immigrants from being processed through the correctional system to minimum security facilities. All day paroles, and full paroles are being denied. They are eligible, but are not considered for any accelerated release, work related plans, or escorted or unescorted temporary passes. They are not even considered for release to any halfway houses. The only way they can be released is to file for parole with deportation when they are deported to their foreign homeland." As a result many immigrants who have completed their sentence are arbitrarily detained until they are deported.
Refugees and immigrants can be arrested or detained without a criminal charge and held indefinitely for any reason or no reason, anytime and anywhere once they arrive in Canada until they are granted citizenship. In an article written in Refugee Update (winter, 1994) by Chris Boles it states "Cases of Detention appear to be increasing. In 1991/2 there were almost 6800 cases of detention throughout Canada. In 1992/3 that figure had increased to a total of 7796 detainees, almost 5000 of them in Ontario." There were no figures available for later years but refugee advocates suggest strongly that the numbers of detainees has continued to increase.
In the majority of these cases, the people have no criminal record and are not a threat to Canada or Canadians. Refugees and immigrants are being arbitrarily detained in violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights of Freedoms section 7; "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice."
On December 18, 1995, Nigerian Mike Akhinen died from medical neglect at Celebrity Inn, an Immigration Holding Centre outside of Toronto. His death highlights the situation of many refugees held in detention centres across Canada. Approximately one quarter of the prison population at the Metro Toronto West Detention Centre, a maximum security prison, are immigrants and refugees placed under a deportation hold, held without a criminal charge.
Despite Canada's international reputation as being a wonderful place to immigrate to, Canadians must question the systemic racism that permeates the infrastructure of the Canadian imigration process. Sadly, the response by the Police Association of Ontario to the results of the Report on Systemic Racism in the Justice System as being "a study by persons pre-disposed to the pre-determined conclusion", is the general tendency of all the sectors of government that are criticised by communities with legitimate concerns.
Anti-Colonial Action Alliance
Box 25, 197 Hunter St. W.
Peterborough, ON, K9H 2L1 Canada