October 2, 2008, Toronto - The fight for access to services and justice and dignity for migrant women took a giant leap forward on Thursday as national, provincial and local women's groups and community organizations launched a campaign across Canada for Shelter, Sanctuary, Status. Together we demand protection for women fleeing violence in the refugee and immigration system, and support domestic violence survivor, Isabel Garcia and her family's application for permanent status.
The Cross-Canada Day of Action began with a press conference at the Queens Park Media Gallery inside the Ontario Legislature. Members of the NDP and Green Party and major media outlets were present to pay notice to our demands.
"Canada needs to not only make commitments internationally, we need to honour them here at home," said Ann Dector, with the YWCA. "We're here today to say that more is required. Women are being deported to unsafe situations without adequate hearings or sufficient recourse to legal counsel and other support."
Other speakers included representatives from Amnesty International, the Ontario Association of Interval and Transitional Homes, the Step-It Up Campaign, and No One Is Illegal. They demanded an immediate stay on deportations of women fleeing violence, due process for violence survivors in the refugee determination process and an immediate stop to all Immigration Enforcement attacks on safe spaces for women.
Across the city at Ryerson University, front-line workers and students from over 120 shelters, rape crisis and trauma centres, community agencies and women's centres packed into a Forum at Ryerson University.
"We are here to come together as agencies to help defend non-status women surviving violence. We are here to strategize on how to implement Don't Ask Don't Tell: Access Without Fear policies to support and protect these women in our communities," said Magaly San Martin (Community Worker, Parkdale Community Legal Services) as she spoke to the standing room only audience.
"The police, directed by immigration enforcement have come into shelters with warrants," insisted Valeska Gomez-Castillo (Counselor, Nellies) to a crowd of nearly 200 people. "We need more allies", she urged to applause.
Following the forum 40 organizations committed to organizing Don't Ask Don't Tell workshops at their organizations to implement the policy in the coming months.
The women at the forum flooded out on to the street, joining forces with many others. The protest swelled to 400 women who marched on to Yonge Street.
Heading towards the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) were flags, banners and home-made placards. They read, "Let Isabel Stay"; "Access without Fear"; "Stop the Deportations" and "Shelter, Sanctuary, Status".
"Canada has no right to tell migrant women like Isabel whether they can stay or leave!" insisted Doreen Silversmith from Cayuga Nation, Six Nations Confederacy, Women's Action Against Racist Policing and the No More Silence Coalition.
Canada was the first country to create a policy making male violence against women grounds for refugee status. "This deportation and others like it violates this policy hard won by the women's movement," warned Judy Rebick (CAW Sam Gindin Chair in Social Justice and Democracy and former president of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women).
Stomping down Queen Street, the energetic marchers took over Toronto's main tourist road, interrupting business as usual and educating onlookers about Canada's discriminatory immigration process.
"Isabel's children remain out of school, in hiding, unable to work or access any services", said Sonia Singh from the Worker's Action Centre. "This is simply not fair!"
"We demand the immediate removal of all deportation orders against women and their families! We demand that immigration enforcement get out of shelters and crisis centres!" thundered Farrah Miranda of No One Is Illegal – Toronto.
As the rally took place in Toronto, nine women representing various women's and feminist organizations went to the Immigration Enforcement offices in Montreal and delivered a letter asking for a stay on Isabel Garcia and her family's deportation. Julie Thibodeau, ("chef des operations/renvois"-head of operations and deportations) insisted that Immigration Enforcement does not go into safe spaces, a claim that many groups have refuted.
A similar delegation went to Immigration Enforcement Headquarters in Vancouver. The letter endorsed by seven organizations read, "We further demand immediate implementation of a policy prohibiting immigration enforcement from entering into and/or executing deportation orders in women centres, sexual assault centers, shelters, and transition homes in order to ensure that women fleeing violence are able to access these critical services without fear of deportation"
The fight for the Garcia family to stay in Canada, and to build the Shelter, Sanctuary, Status campaign is just getting started. We will continue to create more safe spaces free from immigration enforcement. We will demand changes to the Immigration system. And we will make sure that Isabel, her family, and all women who are survivors of violence get full immigration status. Join in the campaign, sign up on the email list and come out to upcoming meetings and events.
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Action Ontarienne contre la violence faite aux femmes (AOcVF), Ontario | Algoma Family Services | Alternatives for Women in Prince Edward County, Picton | Amnesty International Canada (English) | Anne Johnston Health Station, Toronto | ARCH Disability Law Centre | Armagh, Mississauga |Assaulted Women and Children's Counsellor/Advocate Program, George Brown College, Toronto | Assaulted Women's Helpline | Assaulted Women's Helpline, Ontario | Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic, Toronto | Beendigen Inc., Thunder Bay | Bloor Information and Life Skills Centre, Toronto | CALACS francophone d'Ottawa | Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) | Canadian Hispanic Congress | Carleton University Students' Association | Carranza Barristers and Solicitors | Centre for Feminist Research | Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children, London | Centre for Women and Trans People at York University, Toronto | Chadwic Home, Wawa | Chatham-Kent Sexual Assault Crisis Centre, Chatham | Chrysalis House, Western Ottawa Community Resource Centre | Community Development Council Durham | Community Social Planning Council Toronto | Denise House/Sedna Women's Shelter, Oshawa | DisAbled Women's Network Ontario (DAWN) | Elementary Teacher's Federation of Ontario (ETFO) | Ernestine's Shelter, Rexdale | Esprit Place, Parry Sound Faye Peterson House, Thunder Bay | Geraldton Family Resource Centre, Geraldton | Green Haven Shelter for Women, Orillia | Green Party of Ontario | The Guelph-Wellington Women In Crisis | Haldimand-Norfolk Women's Services, Simcoe | Harmony House, Ottawa | Immigrant Women Services Ottawa | Income Security Advocacy Centre, Toronto | Industrial Workers of the World – Toronto | Ingamo Family Homes, Woodstock | Interim Place, Mississauga | Interval House of Ottawa | Julliette's Place, Scarborough | Just One World | Kingston Interval House | Lanark County Interval House, Carleton Place | London Abused Women's Centre | London-Fanshawe New Democratic Party Riding Association | Low Income Families Together (LIFT), Toronto | Luke's Place Support and Resource Centre for Women and Children, Durham Region | Maggie's Resource Centre of North Hastings, Bancroft | Marjorie House, Marathon | Mattawa Women's Resource Centre | Mennonite New Life Centre | METRAC | MUJER | Muskoka Interval House, Bracebridge | Muskoka/Parry Sound Sexual Assault Services | My Sister's Place, Alliston | National Association of Women and the Law (NAWL) | Nellie's Shelter, Toronto | New Starts for Women, Red Lake | No More Silence, Toronto | No One Is Illegal – Toronto | North York Women's Centre | North York Women's Shelter | Northumberland Services for Women, Cobourg | Northwestern Ontario Women's Action Group, Thunder Bay | Ojibway Family Resource Centre, North Bay | Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses (OAITH) | Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres (OCRCC), Ontario | Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) | Ontario Women's Health Network (OWHN) | OPSEU | Oshawa Durham Rape Crisis Centre, Oshawa | Oxford Coordinating Committee to End Violence Against Women (OCCEVAW) | Parkdale Community Legal Services, Toronto | Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) | Punjabi Community Health Centre, Toronto | Reclaiming Ourselves Counselling Centre, Toronto | Red Door Shelter, Toronto | Rosewood Shelter, Midland | Rural Initiative for Social Equality (RISE), Haldimand-Norfolk | Ryerson Students Union | Ryerson Women's Centre | Ryerson Working Students Centre | Sandgate Women's Shelter, Jackson's Point | Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention Services of Halton (SAVIS) | Sexual Assault Centre Hamilton and Area | Sexual Assault Centre London | Sexual Assault Centre of Brant, Brantford | Sexual Assault Centre Quinte and District, Belleville | Sexual Assault Support Centre of Ottawa | Sistering | Springtide Resources, Toronto | Step It Up Campaign | Stop Community Food Centre | Student Federation of the University of Ottawa | The Redwood, Toronto | Toronto City Women's Alliance | Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women Against Rape | Toronto Women's Bookstore | Urban Alliance on Race Relations | Woman Abuse Council of Toronto (WACT) | Woman Abuse Working Group of Hamilton | Women 4 Social Justice, Sault Ste. Marie | Women Against Poverty Collective, Toronto |Women and Children's Shelter, Barrie | Women Today of Huron, Huron County | Women's Centre (Grey and Bruce), Owen Sound | Women's Centre, Hamilton | Women's Community House, London | Women's Counselling, Referral and Education Centre (WCREC), Toronto | Women's Emergency Shelter, Woodstock | Women's Habitat, Etobicoke | Women's House Serving Bruce & Grey, Kincardine | Women's Resources of Simcoe County, Midland | Women's Shelter and Safety Coalition Kenora-Rainy River District | Women's Support Network, Newmarket | Workers Action Centre | Yellow Brick House Project Hostel, Aurora | Youth Out Loud-Stop Child Sexual Abuse, Toronto | YWCA of/DU Canada | YWCA of Peterborough, Victoria and Haliburton, Peterborough | YWCA Toronto
South Asian Women's Community Centre (SAWCC), Montreal| Centre d'aide Aqua-R-Elle, Victoriaville| Centre des femmes d'ici et d'ailleurs, Montreal| Centre des travailleuses en maisons privées/Domestic workers center Montreal | Centre justice et foi, Montreal| Immigrant Workers' Centre, Montreal| March 8th Action and Coordination Committee of Women of Diverse Origins, Montreal| Union for Gender Empowerment at McGill University, Montreal| REGROUPEMENT QUEBECOIS DE C.A.L.A.C.S: Le Mouvement contre le viol et l'inceste (MCVI), Montreal| Calacs La Passerelle, Drummondville| Calacs de Granby| Calacs de Rimouski| Assault sexuel secours, Calacs Val d'Or KRTB, Calacs Rivière du Loup| Calacs la Beaume, Gaspesie| Calacs de l'Outaouais, Gatineau Calacs Coup de Coeur, Joliette| Trêve pour Elle, Montréal| Calacs de Maniwaki, Maniwaki Calacs de la Mauricie, Mickinac, Shawinigan| Calacs Trois Rivières| L'Elan, Mont Laurier| Calacs de Laurentides, St-Jérôme| La Chrysalide, Terrebonne| Maison Isa, Chicoutimi|Calacs de l'Ouest de l'Ile, Montréal| Calacs de Charlevoix, La Malbaie| Calacs Entre Elles, Lac St-Jean, Roberval| Calacs Region Côte Nord, Baie-Comeau|
British Columbia Endorsers
No One Is Illegal-Vancouver| Women Against Violence Against Women Philippine Women Centre of BC| Grassroots Women| Friends of women in the Middle East- BC Chapter| Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women-Canada| Vancouver Status of Women
New Brunswick Endorsers
Women In Black – Fredericton