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2007: Immigrant Communities March for Status for All!

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On Saturday May 5, 2007 over 2500 immigrants, refugees and supporters took to the streets of Toronto's west end to demand a national regularization program and a moratorium on detentions and deportations as well as access to city services regardless of status. The loud and energetic march, which included entire families, began at Christie Pits Park in little Korea and marched through several immigrant neighbourhoods including little Ethiopia and little Portugal to end at Dufferin Grove Park for a community concert and fair.

This action marked the third year in a row that No One Is Illegal-Toronto has been part of organising a National Day of Action for Status for All across Canada and it has continued to grow every year! The march was part of a week of actions for immigrant/refugee rights in Canada and the United States which began on May 1 in several US cities as well as Vancouver, and included marches in Montreal as well.

The march was led by a large contingent of trade unionists under the banner "Good Enough to Work, Good Enough to Stay". Workers from the Canadian Auto Workers, as well as the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation marched together with immigrant workers groups such as the Workers Action Centre, the Coalition of Concerned Taxi Drivers, the Philippine Women's Centre and SIKLAB, to declare that "Immigrant Rights are Worker's Rights!".

Perhaps the loudest group in the march was the Access Without Fear: Don't Ask, Don't Tell contingent which included several groups of students from various Toronto schools including Oakwood Collegiate, Western Tech, Sheridan College, Jarvis Collegiate, Contact High School, Parkdale Collegiate and the Bickford Centre, marching under the Education not Deportation banner. Contingents from Regent Park and Access Alliance Community Health Centre also came out to voice their demands for accessible health care services for people without status.

"Stop the War at Home, Stop the War Abroad" was another rallying call in the march, uniting refugees feeing from war and occupation, war-resisters, anti-war/anti-occupation activists and victims of the CSIS secret trials Security Certificates, Canada's version of Guantanamo.

May 5 2007-1A major theme addressed by speakers at the rally were the successes of the Don't Ask Don't Tell campaign on both a political as well as a grass-roots level, winning major gains at the Toronto District School Board, the Toronto Police Services board as well as local victories at schools, community centres, health centres and agencies.

The demonstration highlighted the case of a Mexican family facing deportation in the end of June. Angelica and her two children Edgar and Vanessa embraced each other as they spoke to a large rally of supporters, stating that they wanted to stay in Canada where they had build their home. The family of four came to Canada as refugees to flee persecution by Mexican police.May 5 2007-6 Although their claim of fear was supported by a strong letter from Amnesty speaking about the lack of state protection in Mexico, the family fell through the cracks of Canada's faulty refugee determination system. After years in refugee and federal courts, the family has exhausted its life savings on legal fees and on applications, and now lacks the funds needed to apply for asylum on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

Like the Lizano-Sossa family who led the march last year, the Gallegos family is a working-class family that has built a life and community here in Toronto. Abraham, the father, has been working in a grocery store and Angelica has been working cleaning houses. Both parents have been avid volunteers at various shelters and food banks. The children Edgar and Vanessa are A students and very involved in the sports and arts programming in their schools. The fact that this family and thousands of others continue to face deportation on a daily basis is a clear sign that Canada's immigration system is not accessible for working-class people.

The rally ended with a great community fair in Dufferin Grove Park which included performances by LAL, Spin, students from the Bickford Centre, ROOTS, and many others.

Join No One is Illegal on Saturday May 26 at 11am at the Bickford Centre (Christie and Bloor) for a community Teach-in/Conference to talk about how to build future events, actions and demonstrations, including activities for Pride Week, how to conintue the fight for a Don't Ask Don't Tell policy at the Toronto District School Board and across the city, and how to keep building the movement for Status for All!

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You can also view all the other pictures from May 5th at this site: