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Marchers protest migrants' roundup

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Advocates decry raids that led to deportation of foreign workers

May 03, 2009
Nicholas Keung

More than 800 people took over parts of downtown Toronto yesterday to
protest against what they call U.S.-style sweeps by Canadian border
officials last month that saw foreign labourers arrested en masse,
detained and deported immediately.

Amid a downpour, protesters waved placards that read "Stop the Raids" and
"Workers' Rights are Human Rights," while chanting "We didn't cross the
border; the border crossed us," marching from Allan Gardens to City Hall.

"We are here to send a message to (Immigration Minister) Jason Kenney to
stop deportation of these workers and immediately grant them immigrant
status," said Chris Ramsaroop of the group, Justicia for Migrant Workers.

The rally, organized by No One Is Illegal, an immigrant and refugee rights
group, was in response to the raids across southern Ontario in early
April, when about 100 migrant labourers – some admitted legally under
Canada's temporary foreign worker program – were rounded up in private
homes and three businesses in Bradford West Gwillimbury.

Most of the workers – from China, Vietnam, Laos and Mexico – have already
been removed for overstaying their work visas or working for employers
other than those stated in their work permits, said Ramsaroop, though some
came here on visitors' visas and worked illegally.

"They are out of (immigration) status because they were not paid the money
promised by their recruiters and they are in debt. Others left their work
places because they didn't get enough hours and needed other jobs," he

Advocates said the recent raids resemble sweeps routinely carried out in
the United States, where undocumented workers are arrested and deported
expeditiously with limited access to legal help.

Patrizia Giolti, a spokesperson for Canada Border Services Agency, refused
to reveal details of the recent arrests, saying the investigation is