As Laval Detention Centre Empties, CBSA Pushes Tracking Bracelets on Migrants

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May 142020
 

From Solidarity Across Borders

Community Update

#FreeThemAll #StatusForAll #HungerStrikeLaval #BordeauxHungerStrike

After two months of resistance by detainees and their supporters, the Laval Immigration Holding Centre now stands almost empty. Only 2 men and 1 woman remain inside, watched over by dozens of guards. While the struggle continues to empty this prison entirely, and to ensure it never reopens, we now confront other ways the state controls migrants and is even pushing forward new forms of surveillance under cover of the pandemic.

At the end of March, detainees in Laval’s migrant prison (run by the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA)) undertook a brave, 8-day hunger strike demanding immediate release. Through written statements and daily audio updates, their call gathered support from Halifax to Vancouver. While the government refused to publicly concede to the demand to free them all – even after guards tested positive for COVID in both the Montreal and Toronto migrant prisons – the detainees’ releases were accelerated through individual detention review hearings. With deportations suspended, there seem to have been no new detentions and the centre has emptied.

However, migrants are also imprisoned in provincial jails. Quebec’s jails have the highest COVID-19 infection rate of any province, but the government has refused calls for a comprehensive release plan. Instead, guards have used pepper spray and force against prisoners who have taken action to protest the life-threatening conditions being forced on them. On May 5th, prisoners in Quebec’s Bordeaux jail responded to these conditions by beginning a brave hunger strike that continues at the time of this writing. Some migrant detainees have been transferred from Leclerc and Rivière-des-Prairies (RDP) provincial prisons to the Laval migrant prison and then released. As of April 28th, 15 men remained in RDP on immigration holds while over 100 more remain in provincial jails across the country.

For many migrants, getting out of the detention centre has not led to much greater security or freedom. Release often involves large cash bonds (in effect, some of the poorest in society are paying thousands of dollars to the state to secure their freedom). Many still face deportation and in the meantime live in precarious housing with no income. Work permit processing is currently suspended for those requiring biometric data and welfare takes weeks or even months to process for those who are eligible. Conditions of release may include frequent reporting to CBSA, living with one’s bondsperson, and even curfews and confinement to defined area perimeters. Moreover, through its new “Alternatives to Detention” programme, the CBSA is outsourcing control of migrants to third parties such as the John Howard Society, which oversees punitive parole-like “case management” programmes in Quebec, sometimes in combination with GPS-voice recognition tracking.

Under cover of the pandemic, the CBSA is now also attempting to introduce ankle bracelets to GPS-track migrants in Quebec, “offering” it to several detainees as the price of freedom. We do not know whether anyone has already been released under this condition. While lawyers can fight the bracelet being imposed on their clients, the legal fightback is time-consuming and may not appear worth the effort to all lawyers.

As Quebec moves to send more workers into dangerous conditions during the pandemic, construction work on CBSA’s new migrant prison in Laval is set to resume as well. While people continue to get sick and die in prisons and detention centres across the country, and while so many are struggling to get by, it is appalling that the state would choose to continue the construction of a new prison and divert resources into intensifying surveillance of migrants.

Free them all! Status for all!

April 19 #FreeThemAllCaravan Reportback

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Apr 232020
 

From Solidarity Across Borders

On April 19th, solidarity caravans drove to prisons and migrant detention centres across the country as part of a day of action against imprisonment. The caravans made noise and held signs in solidarity with those locked up. This mobilization brought together former detainees, prison abolitionists, and migrant justice activists in a first united call, across so-called Canada, to demand the immediate release of all prisoners and status for all migrants in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We’ve included links to footage and report-backs from the different caravans below. You can also listen to a special live radio broadcast with dispatches from the caravans here. For more footage or reports from the caravans, just search #FreeThemAllCaravan on twitter.

Kingston, ON

Surrey, BC [Twitter link]

Toronto, ON [Twitter link]

Laval, QC [Facebook link]

Background:

Social distancing is impossible inside prisons and detention centres and those inside remain at high risk of contracting COVID-19. There are now over 260 confirmed cases of COVID-19 linked to Canadian carceral institutions around the country, where people are held on both criminal and migrant holds. There have also been cases confirmed in both Laval and Toronto migrant detention centres. On April 16th, the Correctional Service of Canada confirmed that an inmate at BC’s Mission Institution prison had died due to COVID-19, with over 50 other inmates testing positive for the virus.

From March 24th to April 1st, detainees at the Laval migrant prison held an eight-day hunger strike to demand their immediate liberation and decent, safe housing upon release. While many hunger-strikers have since been released, 11 people remain in detention.

Despite the mounting calls from dozens of organizations for Canada to release migrant detainees and prisoners, the Canadian government still refuses to free all prisoners. The CBSA for its part has been slowly releasing migrant detainees on a case-by-case basis through individual detention review hearings.

Released migrants often remain under threat of deportation and face precarity, with no housing, long processing times for work permits, and limited or delayed access to support programs.

The Confinement of Consciences

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Apr 132020
 

From the Emma Goldman Collective

In the West we laughed at the images of consumers at big chain stores desperately struggling for irrational amounts of toilet paper. When asked by the media, the consumers said they didn’t know why they needed so many rolls, or that they had simply followed the crowd.

The feeling of catastrophe is difficult to deny. Government experts are asking us to put our trust in the same health care heroes they have overworked, exhausted, and discouraged through repeated budget cuts and devaluing of their jobs in preparation for collective bargaining negotiations.

The dissonance is intense… so is the anger. Management is “rationing” protective equipment for employees; to this day, there are still no masks and few gloves for caregivers in many seniors’ homes despite the mounting deaths.

Entertainment and scapegoats. While the “guardian angels” are working themselves to death for lower real wages than in previous decades (prosperity is the order of the day for Quebec bosses!), the people are being asked to look the other way – to watch videos of baby animals. It’s going to be fine… and above all, wait patiently for the government to restore the normal conditions of your exploitation. It’s not a beautiful dream. The state is the coldest of monsters that, to paraphrase Nietzsche, tells us with lies crawling out of its mouth: ‘I, the state, am your caretaker’.

The story we all tell of these events is not just personal… it is shaped in large part by the state. In the face of the crisis, the state is bringing out the same old stories. Xenophobia being what it is, many people, including Trump, believe the virus is of Chinese nationality, or at least that fault lies with the Chinese people; a deception that suits the populists, who felt their national pride offended by the rise of China. Racism is never really confined to the “realm of ideas”. It has manifested itself in many ways through expressions and actions that are hateful to people of Chinese origin or associated with them for sometimes stupid reasons. A Chinese-born Chicoutimi woman, for example, has denounced several incidents in our region [https://www.iheartradio.ca/energie/energie-saguenay/nouvelles/coronavirus-une-chicoutimienne-nee-en-chine-victime-de-racisme-1.10852664].

True to form, the state also sent its armed wing to “contain the crisis”. The calls for law and order have generated a veritable snitching culture in which everyone is called upon to spy on the actions of others and rely on the police. Your neighbour is potentially the enemy. The situation in Quebec is currently so pitiful that even the cops say they are overwhelmed by the flood of sordid calls and are asking Quebecers to “chill out” with the snitching! Some politicians believe that the state is too soft and are calling for the army to intervene. You’d think that this virus is some kind of anarchist…

Finally, the borders. It was through the power of politicians, not the medical profession, that the popular narrative of events came to include the belief that the virus would be spread by people from outside the country, especially immigrants, and that closing national borders would be one way to stop its spread. Following populist pressure, the Canadian government even took steps to prevent refugee claimants from entering Canada. Do we think we can live in an airtight glass bubble? The fantasy of right-wing populists is utterly stupid. Billions of people in the global south, many of whom have no clean drinking water at home or have to fend for themselves on a daily basis to meet their families’ basic needs, are being asked to live in forced confinement. How many will die of hunger or thirst rather than coronavirus, while countries like Canada would rather invest billions to support the destructive fossil fuel industry? How can we not think that this lack of solidarity with the global South in the context of the pandemic will not encourage an even more intense spread of the virus and make it even more difficult to fight in Canada in the future? Fuck!

Please, let’s protect ourselves from the virus, but let’s also fight the confinement of consciences through class solidarity and international solidarity. Let’s target the real enemies.

Anarchist of Pekuakami

CALL TO ACTION: Hunger Strikers Released as CBSA Resists Demands to Release Remaining Detainees

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Apr 032020
 

From Solidarity Across Borders

#HungerStrikeLaval #FreeThemAll #StatusForAll

Migrants detained in the CBSA’s Laval Immigration Holding Centre suspended their hunger strike yesterday as two more of the hunger strikers, including their spokesperson Abdoul*, were released yesterday, and another today. Around 20 detainees remain in the main part of the centre, along with more held in the Rivière-des-Prairies jail in Montreal.

— SEE WHAT YOU CAN DO BELOW

GALLERY OF SUPPORT

MESSAGE FROM ABDOUL, JUST RELEASED

The migrant detainees’ courageous 8-day hunger strike provoked an outpouring of support from coast to coast, demanding the immediate release of all detainees with adequate & safe housing ensured. The CBSA is instead slowly releasing migrant detainees one by one, through individual detention review hearings.

The strikers’ demands are even more urgent now than when the strike began. Migrant detainees and prisoners are at an increasingly high risk of contracting COVID-19. At least one employee at the Toronto Immigration Holding Centre has already tested positive for the virus. Detainees, whether in Laval or in other cities, in prisons or in detention centres, must be released immediately with adequate, safe housing ensured!

This crisis has made the necessity of removing the manufactured barriers and exclusions created by hierarchies of immigration status clearer than ever. For the good of all: Status for all!

Follow the continuing campaign here and on twitter.

Read daily updates from the men in the Laval Immigration Holding Centre here.


WHAT YOU CAN DO:

SOCIAL MEDIA
Use the hashtag set #FreeThemAll #StatusForAll along with #HungerStrikeLaval to show your support for the struggle on social media! We encourage you to tag Bill Blair, Marco Mendicino, Justin Trudeau, and other government officials who refuse to free the detainees.

SOLIDARITY DRAWINGS
We are calling for artists of all ages to share drawings in solidarity with the struggle to free the detainees. We encourage you to post your art to social media with the hashtag set #FreeThemAll #StatusForAll as well as #HungerStrikeLaval.

CALL IN
Continue to pressure the government for the immediate release of all detainees!
Send support statements to detenuslaval@gmail.com

Direct calls and emails to:

Federal Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair
Bill.Blair@parl.gc.ca
Telephone: 613-995-0284
Fax: 613-996-6309

Email script:

I am appalled that the government continues to flout its own public health recommendations when it comes to detention facilities, even as guards and prisoners test positive across the country. It is incredible that men detained in the Laval Immigration Holding Centre had to go on a hunger strike to pressure Public Safety Minister Bill Blair to take action.

Migrant detainees and prisoners remain at an extremely high risk of contracting COVID-19. At least one employee at the Toronto Immigration Holding Centre has already contracted the virus. Minister Blair has not responded to the widespread call for immediate, collective release. The Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) is instead slowly releasing migrant detainees through hearings. This is a wholly inadequate response to this urgent crisis.

All detainees, whether in Laval or in other cities, in prisons or in detention centres, must be released immediately with adequate, safe housing ensured.

Gallery of Support from Coast to Coast for Detainees’ Hunger Strike

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Apr 022020
 

From Solidarity Across Borders

The eight day long hunger strike by the migrant detainees at the Laval Immigration Holding Center gathered coast to coast support. Below is a gallery of images received over last days of the strike. The letters of support are available here.

No one is Illegal – Toronto

Communiqué from Prisoners in the Laval Immigration Holding Centre: Hunger Strike Until We Are Free

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Mar 242020
 

From Solidarity Across Borders

Laval, 24 March 2020

Following the petition we wrote [on 19 March, sent to government officials and asking to be released in the context of the pandemic*], which had little impact on our situation of detention, we have decided to move to the second phase of our plan. This is to go on an indefinite hunger strike, starting today. This will be done in the most peaceful way and we are not breaking any detention centre rules. Thank you for your support and all help is welcome.

*Petition to free the detainees, sent to Ministers of Immigration and Public Safety on 19 March 2020:

We are currently detained at the Laval Immigration Holding Centre. Given the urgent situation of the propagation of the coronavirus, we believe that we are at high risk of contamination. Here in the detention centre we are in a confined space, every day we see the arrival of people, of immigrants, from everywhere, who have had no medical appointment nor any test to determine whether they are potential carriers of the virus. There is also the presence of security staff who are in contact with the external world every day and also have not had any testing. For these reasons we are writing this petition, to ask to be released.

#HungerStrikeLaval #FreeThemAll

3/25/2020 – New call for solidarity

Spring of Action launched with Disruption of Lemay Offices

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Mar 082020
 

From Solidarity Across Borders

On Friday, community members entered the offices of Lemay, architects of the new prison for migrants in Laval. Chanting slogans, distributing flyers, and carrying silhouettes of friends and neighbours who had been detained and deported, they disrupted business as usual.

The new prison, located at 400 Montée Saint-François in Laval, will replace the current one. Like all prisons in Canada, it will be filled with poor, brown, Black, and Indigenous people colonized by European powers. This prison is an essential part of Canada’s border strategy, keeping poor people from the global south out and wealth in the hands of a few.

Tisseur, a construction firm located in Val-David, has worked through the winter with the result that the new migrant prison is beginning to take shape despite widespread, concerted community opposition (to see photo from last month, click here).

This is a call to stop any further construction of this prison. Take action! Work with others, thoughtfully, strategically, in love and determination. This prison must not be built!

Contact (for coordination, flyers, media points, petition, information, toolkit, backgrounders, etc.): solidaritesansfrontieres [at] gmail [dot] com

For more about immigration detention in Canada and the new migrant prison, click here.

For more about the companies involved in constructing the new Laval migrant prison, click here.

To sign our statement against the prison, click here.

National Insecurity: The RCMP Knocks on Doors in Montreal

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Dec 072019
 

Anonymous submission to MTL Counter-info

When it comes to its colonial, racist regime of borders and prisons, the Canadian state, in its police headquarters and technocratic backrooms, sees trouble on the horizon. With a network of border posts, patrols, surveillance technology, detention centers, courts, “alternatives to detention”, and deportation squads, this country’s rulers hope to secure the authority to determine who can make a life on the territory they fraudulently govern, who can find a place to live, who can send their kids to school, who can access health care, who can go about their days without fear. They are supported in this project by mass media always ready to dramatize any new trend in irregular border crossings, by cultural myths positing Canada as friendly and welcoming, concealing a murderous, cruel reality, and of course by the far right, who have the vital task of mis-directing poor and working people’s anger towards fellow victims of the global economic system at the root of their sense of powerlessness.

Yet this web of domination is far from impenetrable. Canada’s land border with the United States is too massive to completely control; clandestine crossing points abound. Likewise, overstaying a visa and keeping out of CBSA’s sights is not impossible. Across the country, migrants organize solidarity networks to ensure that no one needs to face the serious challenges of accessing services without status and confronting a racist immigration system alone.

This year, a list of CBSA agents’ names was published, encouraging people to hold them responsible for their destructive effects on our communities and comrades. And over the past two years, in response to the government’s effort to build new migrant prisons, Montreal-area contractors who have accepted work on the prison slated to open in Laval in 2021 have faced protests and a series of attacks, beginning with the release of crickets into prison architect Lemay’s building in spring 2018. This past July, a Lemay vice-president’s BMW was burned outside his home. On the night of October 26, the general contractor for the prison, Tisseur, appears to have lost a truck to a targeted arson. Most recently, this month, vehicles parked at the headquarters of subcontractor DPL had their tires slashed.

Such actions have an impact, both material and psychological; as the president of excavation firm Loiselle told the media after its headquarters was vandalized, “we don’t want trouble with these people.” Should these attacks continue and spread, they could quickly change the landscape of the state’s capability to maintain and expand the enforcement of borders, immigration, and citizenship.

It is no surprise that police agencies, of which at least 4 in the Montreal area have unsolved events related to the migrant prison within their territorial jurisdiction (SPVM, SPL (Laval), SPAL (Longueuil), and SQ), would join forces to share resources and coordinate a more intensive investigation. In fact, a La Presse article in July revealed that such a move was in the works.

The week of October 28th saw the first clear signs of this escalation in repressive resources, as a small number of long-time activists received house visits and phone calls from RCMP officers on the island of Montreal. The officers belong to an INSET (Integrated National Security Enforcement Team), the unit that has coordinated security for summits like the G7 and investigated other instances of what they call “violent extremism”. Each INSET is made up of RCMP officers, CSIS agents, and members of local police forces, as well as members of CBSA and Citizenship and Immigration Canada [source: Wikipedia].

The officers who paid these visits in October had no warrant, and they said they wanted to discuss migrant justice organizing, as well as anti-gentrification movements, in relation to criminal acts that are under investigation. Those visited did not let the cops in or speak with them.

We consider these events important to share publicly so that comrades can take appropriate precautions, recognize patterns, and avoid the spread of false information. Anyone who is contacted by the RCMP, other police, or CSIS in a similar way or in relation to this investigation is strongly encouraged to let comrades know as soon as possible.

In past investigations, the Montreal INSET has used tactics that include bugging phones and houses, tailing suspects, surreptitiously entering houses and offices to make observations unbeknownst to suspects, and infiltrators and paid informants. Even combining these methods and others across several years, the INSET has been unable to bring charges in the past. Collectively, it’s clear where our power lies when faced with this type of investigation: the value of silence and total non-cooperation with any police can not be overstated. There is nothing to be gained by letting officers into your home or saying anything to them. Without a valid warrant, police have no right to enter your home or office (see the COBP’s “Guess What! We’ve Got Rights!?”). Contact a trusted lawyer if you are unsure of your rights in any situation.

Moreover, we benefit from continually reflecting on our security practices and striving to build a security culture that keeps us and our comrades as safe as possible while allowing us to fight with conviction and expand our capacity. This recently published reflection on security culture has much to offer both as an introduction to the topic and a prompt for re-assessing and refining our practices.

By bringing other struggles to which anarchists have contributed, namely anti-gentrification, into their sights, and by brandishing the spectre of “terrorism”, despite investigating mere arson and broken windows, the RCMP shows that it is not simply trying to solve specific crimes; they want to disrupt our movements’ ability to challenge the racist and colonial foundations of the Canadian state and the capitalist imperatives that govern it everywhere. With or without legal proceedings, they want to assign criminality to ideas that threaten them. They want us to be afraid to take the risks necessary to build something different. They want to break down solidarity between those speaking publicly and those acting clandestinely, so that public organizing contains itself within the approved channels of protest, and anonymous interventions are denounced and isolated. Importantly, they are also signaling that our movements are a threat to their ability to carry out their functions, a reminder that now is not the time to shrink away.

We know that the mere threat of repression can be effective at disrupting movements. While the information about this investigation and INSET tactics is concerning, we see no reason for paranoia or panic. This much is simple: if the cops have questions, it shows that they don’t know what they want and need to know. The struggle continues, and it is through the continued and increasing involvement of a wide variety of groups and individuals dedicated to keeping each other safe, sharing information and resources, and refusing to allow the state to sow divisions between us that we will all be the most formidable opponents to the police and the border regime.

When targeted by repressive forces, it can be tempting to appeal to discourses rooted in legality, decrying the ‘excesses’ of the state or demanding protection for ‘civil liberties’. But our movements will be stronger in the long run by acknowledging that if we want to see their world of confinement and control in flames, it’s inevitable that they will attempt to shut us down, by any means at their disposal. Once we step away from the myths of public opinion, it should be clear that there is nothing to gain by portraying ourselves as victims. It’s a question of practicing an unyielding solidarity and denying the state the power it seeks.

 

Call for Solidarity

In the event of raids or arrests related to the RCMP/INSET investigation, we call for offensive solidarity in Montreal and beyond against border enforcement infrastructure, or whatever targets are most relevant in your area! 🖤

Attack on vehicles parked at home of president of DPL, subcontractor involved in the construction of the new migrant prison

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Nov 192019
 

Anonymous submission to MTL Counter-info

Early one snowy November morning, we visited the office of DPL, the company subcontracted to put in place the concrete formwork for the new migrant prison in Laval. We are lucky: the headquarters of DPL (situated at 370 rang Rivière Bayonne Nord in Berthierville) is also the home of Pierre-Luc Désy, president of DPL, his wife Christiane Désy, who is DPL’s administrative staff, and their children.

We popped the tires of one of the family’s vehicles and two of the company’s trailers which were parked in the yard. We also painted messages against the prison on the vehicles, notably: “Nique les prisons” and “Fuck prisons”.

How did we know that DPL is involved in this awful project if they are only a subcontractor with no public contract? Other subcontracters: this is a question you should also ask yourselves.

If you think you can hide your involvement in this project, think again. You would be wise to reconsider if it is really worth it.

Understand: your role will not remain a secret, and once your involvement is revealed you will be just as vulnerable as Loiselle, Lemay, and Tisseur, victims of many attacks over the past year.

Pierre-Luc and Christiane: while your children play hockey in your yard and live in safety with the comfort of parents who love them, you are helping to build the foundations of a prison that will separate other families, a prison in which children will be traumatised, and possibly die. Does that make you proud? Do you think that your children will be proud when they understand your choices? Won’t they be ashamed to have worn t-shirts with your company’s logo?

Until the end of this prison, of all prisons, and of the world that needs them.

Responsibility Claim for an Incendiary Attack Against Migrant Prison Construction Company

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Oct 312019
 

Anonymous submission to MTL Counter-info

By accepting to be the general contractor for the new Laval migrant detention center, Tisseur Inc. made a grave mistake. On the night of October 26th we decided to make our contribution to the struggle against the system of borders and prisons in all its forms. We set fire to a truck on the banks of the Lachine Canal, on the site of another Tisseur project. We’re not done.

– anarchists