Edmontonians plan rally against detention of immigrant families

People participate in a protest against recent U.S. immigration policy of separating children from their families when they enter the United States as undocumented immigrants, in front of a Homeland Security facility in Elizabeth, NJ, U.S., June 17, 2018. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

Edmontonians concerned about what’s happening at the southern U.S. border plan to take to the streets on Saturday.

Paula Kirman is one of the organizers of the Rally Against Family Separation. She said the detainment of families who tried to cross the U.S. border illegally is troubling, but she said it happens in Canada, too.

“For example, in 2016-2017, Canada jailed 162 minors,” Kirman said. “Eleven of them were unaccompanied, and it’s not on the same level of what’s currently going on in the United States, but it’s something that has happened, and is something that has to stop.”

“It’s very easy to point the finger at what’s going on in another country, but we have to look at what has happened in Canada and what is happening in Canada.”

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Besides the detainment of immigrant families, Kirman pointed to our country’s history of taking Indigenous children from their parents, and how difficult our current immigration laws make it for live-in caregivers to be reunited with their loved ones.

As for what’s happening in the U.S., Kirman said there is something the Trudeau Government could do to help refugees and asylum seekers: “The Safe Third Country Agreement needs to be scrapped because the U.S. is not safe for those currently seeking asylum.”

“And for refugees from the United States to cross over to Canada through land border crossings is extremely dangerous,” Kirman said. “People have died. People have been injured.”

The Safe Third Country Agreement between the U.S. and Canada means that refugees must make their asylum claims in the first country they land in. Some refugees, afraid that their claims will be rejected by the U.S. government, have been entering Canada in remote areas to avoid being sent back to the U.S. for possible deportation.

They’re making those crossings even in dangerous weather, with some losing fingers and toes to frostbite. Last year, a woman died of hypothermia trying to cross into Manitoba.

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Kirman wants Edmontonians to put pressure on the federal government to suspend the deal.

“We are very strongly encouraging people to send postcards and emails to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and to your Member of Parliament, and to the Immigration Minister,” Kirman said.

“Canada needs to be an example to the rest of the world, and to be open to asylum seekers and refugees.”

Saturday’s Rally Against Family Separation takes place at End of Steel Park at 12 p.m.

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