Montreal, 11 June 2023 – The Solidarity Across Borders network has noticed an increase in people being called in to CBSA offices to start deportation proceedings in Montreal. In addition, in the past weeks, we are aware of two incidents in which the CBSA (the border police) came to the homes of undocumented community members. They were both under arrest warrants for not having shown up for their deportation. CBSA somehow found their addresses and went to their homes to arrest them.
We are sending this advisory so people can be aware and prepared.
Why is this happening?
It may just be that CBSA is finally catching up on their backlog of work after the pandemic. It may be CBSA’s way of preparing for the long-awaited regularization programme. There may be some other reason. It is impossible for us to be sure.
What can we do?
Here are some suggestions from our collective experience of ways to protect ourselves and each other.
1) My Refugee Application was Refused and I Received a Letter from CBSA
If your refugee application has been refused and you receive a letter from the CBSA to come in to start deportation proceedings, consider getting in touch with Solidarity Across Borders or an organization you trust. We can share some basic information about what to expect and some general tips. Knowledge is power and we will share as much as we can.
If other members of your community are also facing deportation, consider calling a community meeting. You can plan collective action to fight your deportations and demand regularization together. Indian international students in Ontario are an inspiring example of what can be done to fight deportations. They are currently on their 15th day of a sit-in outside CBSA offices. Get in touch, Solidarity Across Borders will try to support your actions. See below.
2) I Stayed Past a Deportation Date and/or Didn’t Attend a Meeting with the CBSA
If you have already remained in Canada past a deportation date, or have not gone to a meeting that CBSA ordered you to attend, an arrest warrant has probably been issued for you (unless you were under 16 at the time).
Many people in this situation move if CBSA has their address and then keep their new address confidential. However, CBSA sometimes finds them and comes to their home to arrest them. In our experience, this usually happens because other people who know their situation have denounced them to CBSA. It is a good idea to prepare for a CBSA visit to your home, even if you think that they do not know your address:
Important Facts and Experiences
- An arrest warrant for you does not give CBSA the legal right to enter or break into your home. CBSA officers can only force their way into your home if they have a court-authorized search warrant or someone is in danger. This means that, in most cases, they are not legally allowed into the apartment if the person answering the door says they cannot enter.
- If you live with someone and that other person answers the door, they have the right to remain silent. They do not have to answer CBSA’s questions. In reality, it can be very difficult to remain silent. Thinking through in advance what that person will say, and practising it, is a very good idea. Importantly, when CBSA has come to arrest an undocumented person in the past, they have had the person’s full details, including their photo. The CBSA officers have shown this to the person who answers the door and asked them if the undocumented person is at home.
- Previously, when the CBSA has arrived at a home, they have positioned officers at all exits, to catch people if they try to escape out the back door.
- In past situations, undocumented people who stayed quietly inside and did not open the door when CBSA arrived, have managed to stay safe.
Make a Safety Plan
Make a plan beforehand. This could help you to stay calm and better able to act in your best interests if CBSA comes to the door. Think through how you and the people you live with will act if there is a knock on the door. Some questions you can ask yourself: Is it really necessary to open the door when you are not expecting visitors? If you do have to open the door, who should open it? What will the person who opens the door say if it turns out to be the CBSA and they ask for you? Where will you be when the other person is opening the door? If you live with people who do not know your situation, or people who may be too scared by CBSA to protect you, how should you prepare?
CBSA doesn’t seem to usually carry out proactive investigations, but many people take basic precautions such as not using a real name on facebook or not posting clear facial photos in public social media accounts. If you receive unsolicited messages such as job offers, it may be better not to respond, or to ask a trusted friend or organization to verify that the message is authentic before responding.
3. My Work, Study, or Travel Visa is Expired or Cancelled and I Didn’t Leave the Country
If you entered on a valid work, study, or travel visa and didn’t leave Canada after it expired or was cancelled, an arrest warrant is not automatically issued for you. You can still be arrested by CBSA (or the police) if they are aware of your status. But, they will not normally actively look for you because you aren’t on their radar.
Why Collective Action is Important
While it’s vital to prepare individually, it is important to remember that you are not alone in confronting an unjust immigration and refugee system, whose laws are used to justify violently forcing people to leave. We have to continue to organize, mobilize and collectively fight back against detentions and deportations, which tear apart lives, families and communities. Political victories are possible.
Solidarity Across Borders and its allies are currently campaigning to push the government to grant permanent status to all undocumented people and refused refugees in Canada and immediately stop deportations and detentions. And the government is listening: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau mandated Immigration Minister Sean Fraser to explore the possibility of a regularization programme; and undocumented migrants met directly with Fraser to tell them what they wanted last October. Fraser promised that deportations would stop when a regularization programme was announced.
Join us in this struggle because status for all will help keep us all safer. Make calls, email and visit Federal Cabinet Ministers in Quebec. Come to an online assembly on 14 June at 7pm. Please get in touch if you have questions, need support, or if you want to join the fight for #StatusForAll!
United, we are strong.