Homes not Bombs
PO Box 73620, 509 St. Clair Ave. West
Toronto, ON M6C 1C0, (416) 651-5800; firstname.lastname@example.org
in Hamilton: (905) 527-4488; email@example.com
Cell phone (good only July 20-26): (416) 832-9165
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE JULY 10, 2002
Calls for an End to CSIS and RCMP Harassment of Arabs, Muslims and People of Middle Eastern Heritage
A walk to end racism from Hamilton to Toronto will spend a week on the road from July 20-26 to raise awareness about serious civil rights violations in Canada, some of which predate the spike in hate crimes that occurred following September 11. In addition to evening vigils at prisons and military facilities, walkers hope to meet with as many as 32 Members of Parliament along the way to discuss the walk's demands
"This is a walk as much about questions as answers," says Matthew Behrens, one of those walking. "Hundreds of people of Middle Eastern or Arabic background disappeared from airplanes September 11 and afterwards in Canada, many spent weeks behind bars, then were released without charge or explanation. Why? Who authorized this? How could such a thing happen? Why has there been no inquiry to prevent it from happening again?
"The walk is also focusing on the use of the CSIS security certificate, a medieval affront to democracy. As we walk we ask: how can the word of the scandal-plagued and biased spy agency have anyone arrested, thrown behind bars, held without bail, and brought before a court in which that individual and his or her lawyer is not allowed to see the evidence against them?"
In one of those cases, a Federal Court of Canada Justice cleared Mahmoud Jaballah of any terror allegations. CSIS did not like the results, so he was re-arrested, and Jaballah has spent 8 of the past 11 months at Metro West Detention in Toronto in punitive segregation., resulting in serious health problems and untold stress on his family.
"If Jaballah is able to have the current security case thrown out, will CSIS keep arresting him until they find a judge who will side with them? It's long past time that we return this much abused and tortured man to his family and compensate him for these abuses."
The walk is also focusing on a security certificate case of Muhammad Mahjoub, currently held under similar circumstances, and the extradition case of Abdellah Ouzghar, whom the government of France is seeking to extradite from Hamilton. Despite knowing where he lived, the French did not contact Mr. Ouzghar, and instead now want him to go to prison after that government charged, tried, convicted, and sentenced him in absentia -- all this based on what an Ontario judge has stated are very shaky grounds.
"These are cases which are proceeding without much alarm or outrage because the targets are men of Middle Eastern or Arabic background or Muslim faith, which means they fit the media/government/military stereotype of evildoer-du-jour. Racism provides the foundation for these cases. This is not surprising or new. In fact, racism is as Canadian as the Maple Leaf."
Walkers also hope to raise questions about and call for an end to invasive and abusive treatment of people of Arabic and Middle Eastern background and Muslim faith by police forces across Canada. The passing of legislation such as the sweeping C-36 has, in many ways, opened wide the door to unending abuse by the authorities against these communities.
Recent examples of such abuse include
an Ottawa couple and their young daughters (aged three years and 18 months) who were visited by a team of armed RCMP and Ottawa Police officers at around 7 a.m. About half-a-dozen law enforcement personnel searched the terrified family's home for more than five hours. When two close relatives arrived to take the frightened little girls out of the couple's home until investigators were finished, police even insisted on searching the crying childrens' jackets and boots before they were allowed to leave. The officers confiscated computer and telephone files, as well as Islamic religious books.
A Muslim woman in Ottawa, an immigrant who speaks little English, has alleged that two police officers entered her apartment forcibly without a warrant, searched her apartment, denied her requests to call her husband to help with the translation, and asked whether her husband 'wore a beard.'
Numerous individuals report the humiliation of being questioned at their place of work by RCMP and CSIS. In one case, a Canadian Muslim was informed that he should come in for questioning to 'clear his name' but not bring his lawyer.
"At a time when any person of colour becomes suspect because of irresponsible public statements by government leaders about alleged 'sleeper cells' of terrorists or "suspicious Arabs" renting apartment buildings, we are called to put an end to such fear mongering and to address the real problems of inequality faced by our communities.
"The walk also hopefully gives moral support to those communities where fear of the ongoing racist attacks continues to rule decisions such as whether to go out at night, whether to wear traditional clothing, whether to go shopping alone, whether to send one's children to school or extra-curricular activities, etc."
Additional demands of the walk include an end to the regular arbitrary detention of upwards of 400-500 refugee claimants; an end to racial profiling; full disclosure of post 9/11 incarcerations and an accounting of who is still behind bars; repeal of Bill C-36 and related anti-civil liberties legislation, including the new refugee act under which Amnesty International has expressed concern that "there may be some people who are not protected from return to situations where they may be arbitrarily detained, tortured, disappeared or executed"; and a serious commitment to end what numerous reports have identified as a growing "economic apartheid" in Canada, in which as much as 50% of "visible minority" community members are forced to survive below the poverty line.
SATURDAY JULY 20, Hamilton-Burlington, Meet at 10 AM
Start: Hamilton Detention Centre (165 Barton Street East), Walk 21 km to Burlington
SUNDAY, JULY 21 Burlington - Oakville, Meet Appleby United Church, 4407 Spruce, 11:15 am, 18 km
MONDAY, JULY 22: Oakville - Mississauga, Meet 10 am, Clarkson Park, north of Winston Churchill and Royal Windsor, 17 km
TUESDAY, JULY 23: Mississauga to Etobicoke; Meet: 10 am Burnhamthorpe and Hurontario
Walk 17 km to Metro West Detention Centre, 111 Disco Road (near Carlingview and Dixon)
*****All-night Solidarity Sleepout July 23 Demanding the Release of Mahmoud Jaballah and Muhammad Mahjoub begins at 9:30 pm at Metro West, continues till 10 am the next day
WEDNESDAY, JULY 24: Etobicoke to Weston To Forest Hill, Meet: 10 am, Metro West Detention Centre, 111 Disco Road ( Walk ends up in Forest Hill at office of MP Caroline Bennett, 22 km
THURSDAY, JULY 25: Rosedale to Scarborough, Meet: 10 am, 365 Bloor East (office of MP Bill Graham)
Walk goes along Danforth to Victoria Park, up to Lawrence, on to
Scarborough Town Centre, 22 km
FRIDAY, JULY 26: Downtown Toronto, Meet, 10 am, Immigration Canada office, 25 St. Clair Ave. East (just east of Yonge), Walk to Federal Court at 361 University Ave, then to Immigration and
Refugee Board offices on Victoria
The 2002 Amnesty International Report states: "In many parts of the world people have suffered racist attacks because of their appearance and/or their religion. In the name of fighting 'international terrorism', governments have rushed to introduce draconian new measures that threaten the human rights of their own citizens, immigrants and refugees...Governments must not use the ''war on terrorism'' to introduce draconian measures that limit civil liberties and allow violations of human rights. Such measures are likely to stifle dissent and curtail basic freedoms. For this reason, they must be resisted."
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