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Public Forum: Can Human Smuggling be defended?

Jan/11/2011 - 6:00 pm

The South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario and No One Is Illegal - Toronto invite you to join in a public conversation with Barbara Jackman (Lawyer), Kamala Kempadoo (Professor), Graciela Flores Mendez (No One Is Illegal - Toronto) and Macdonald Scott (Immigration Consultant and No One Is Illegal - Toronto)

Can Human Smuggling be defended?

11 January 2010
Lillian H. Smith Library, 239 College Street
6:00pm - 8:00pm

** BARBARA JACKMAN is a lawyer specializing in immigration and refugee law. She has served as a Director in the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the Working Women Community Centre, INTERCEDE, and Defence for Children International.
** KAMALA KEMPADOO is a Professor in the Department of Social Science at York University and author of Trafficking and Prostitution Reconsidered (Paradigm 2005)
** GRACIELA FLORES MENDEZ is an anti-racist feminist, student, and activist and member of No One Is Illegal-Toronto. She is a Mexican migrant who “smuggled” herself and lived without status in the United States near the Mexico-U.S border for the majority of her life.
** MACDONALD SCOTT is an Immigration Consultant with Carranza Barristers and Solicitors, a member of the Immigration Legal Committee of the Law Union of Ontario and a Fellow with the Canadian Migration Institute. He is a member of No One Is Illegal - Toronto and the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty.

** KARIN BAQI is a staff lawyer at the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario.

More speakers TBA. Light refreshments will be served. Childcare available upon request, please email

This is a discussion-based forum with a large part of the time allotted for collective thinking and questioning.


In defense of human smuggling, for the free movement of people.
No One Is Illegal - Toronto, Dec 2010

Throughout the political jockeying and the manufactured media circus that surrounded the arrival of the Tamil migrants aboard the Ocean Lady and the MV Sun Sea, “human smuggling” has consistently been framed as an unquestioned evil, a practice that must be combated through anti-smuggling legislation and criminal punishment.

We reject this presumption.

Migration is one form of resistance to the displacement, destruction, and desperation that the forces of war, environmental havoc and global capitalism produce across the world.

It is the creation, control, and policing of international/colonial borders that forces people to travel on foot, by air and by water, in the night, across torturous terrains, in dangerous conditions and using forged documents that must be resisted.

At a time when Canada shuts down most avenues to full immigration status, denies most refugee claims, exploits poor and working people of colour as temporary workers and tries to detain and deport its undocumented residents - we insist that human smuggling is not a crime.

Human smuggling is a time-honored tradition, enshrined in common practice and international law. For as long as governments have asserted control of mobility along their borders, people have sought assistance to cross them.

Whether it be Albert Einstein who fled persecution in 1935 with forged identification papers because of the support of those who would, today, be labeled human smugglers or the tens of thousands in the United States who, with the assistance of dedicated abolitionists like Harriet Tubman, navigated the underground railroad in order to find freedom from slavery – human smuggling has been commemorated and celebrated as an act of necessity, as an act of courage, as an act of resistance to persecution and injustice. Today, with great resolve, many communities and people around the world continue to support each other in attempts to migrate.

Any attempt to further criminalize human smuggling will ensure that migrants forced to move irregularly across borders will do so in more dangerous conditions, at higher cost and face further exploitation.

This is simply unacceptable.

We reject unconditionally the forced displacement and trafficking of people by states, by corporations and by people. We assert that those with a will to move be able to do so freely. In an era of systematic displacement and militant, racist immigration policy and practice, this assertion means we must continue to fight to create pathways for free movement, including just means of “human smuggling”.

It is not human smuggling that need be combated. It is the violence of immigration controls and displacement that must be targeted, struggled against, and defeated.

We insist: No One Is Illegal! Freedom to Move! Freedom to Stay! Freedom to Return!