Skip to main content

Update: Over 100 Migrant Workers Arrested; Communities Demand Their Release

April 4, 2009 - Executing massive and unprecedented US-style raids in East Toronto, Leamington, and Bradford, the Canada Border Services Agency has arrested and detained over 100 migrant workers across Southern Ontario.

Hundreds of families and friends are wondering right now why their loved ones have not returned from work. The hundreds of thousands of non-status people across Canada have woken up to a horrible day in Stephen Harper's Canada.

On early Thursday morning, enforcement officers stormed into three different businesses in Bradford and Markham where they arrested migrant workers. CBSA even followed workers to their homes throughout the GTA and surrounding area. In total 80 people were arrested. They were placed on GO buses, handcuffed and held immobile for hours.

"One of my relatives was arrested in the raid. She called me from jail this morning. She and her co-workers are terrified that they may be deported at any time," said Jonathan Canchela, chair of the Filipino Migrant Workers Movement- and member of Migrante-Ontario.

On the same day in Leamington, eight agricultural workers were arrested. The workers were traveling to the farm where they work with a contractor when they were pulled over and arrested.

"Canada's immigration policies systemiclly discriminate against the most marginalized members of our community. Instead of reguarlization, the government criminalizes, instead of addressing exploitative working and living conditions, they persecute migrant labourers instead of enhancing workplace protections they engage in these type of raids which send a message to migrant workers that if they exert their rights there will be reprisals" says Chris Ramsaroop of Justicia Migrant Workers.

Simultaneously over a dozen agricultural workers were arrested in East Toronto on the Danforth, some from their homes.

"The purpose of these raids is to heighten a climate of fear and insecurity in immigrant communities. These raids are part of Canada's revolving door immigration policy where workers are used and disposed of with little or no rights", says Mac Scott of the Law Union of Ontario.

"In this economic crisis, companies are hiring us to save money. In my case, I've no work permit. I need to send money for my children to go to school. That is why I have to work. There are so many like me in this country, more than a million. Why not a regularization program so we can pay taxes. Many of us are skilled and qualified and could help the country at the same time as we send the money back home", says Henry, who was arrested on Thursday and is presently in the Detention Centre.

Community groups are mobilizing broadly to demand the immediate release of the detainees and status for all people in Canada. For details on how to travel to the Immigration Centre and a document of people's rights if they're arrested at their workplace can be found here. Thousands of us, from immigrant communities across Southern Ontario, will be hitting the streets on May 2nd to demand an end to immigration raids, and justice, dignity and respect for all migrant workers.

For further information and breaking news, please contact
Mac Scott - Law Union of Ontario (416.999.6885)
Farrah Miranda - No One Is Illegal - Toronto (416.805.7489)
Chris Ramsaroop - Justicia for Migrant Workers (647.834.4932)
Marco Luciano - Migrante Ontario (647.205.5908)