TORONTO, Ontario (April 6, 2011) — The cruel order for the deportation of Nichole and her 10 year old daughter Renata brought shock and sadness to residents of South Etobicoke - but they were quick to take action. Community members gathered today to show their support for Nichole and Renata as well as to express their anger, frustration and hope for systemic change.
"This morning's petition signing at Mimico Baptist Church is a true demonstration of the community spirit of South Etobicoke, particularly Mimico." said Bob Poldon, President of Mimico Residents Association. "With only 48 hours notice, dozens and dozens of community members and families have signed the petition to show their support for a community member in need."
Michael Erickson, the NDP candidate for Etobicoke - Lakeshore, himself a high school teacher, was in attendance. Erickson has long been critical of many immigration policies and practices that seem to be more about punishment than justice.
"It seems to me that this government doesn't understand the purpose of rules and law." said Erickson. "Law should be in place to keep us safe, to ensure human dignity and create peace and justice. This government seems to think that law is about crime and punishment. They apply the rules without a sense of humanity and without a heart."
Erickson points to longstanding problems with both the legal system and with the supports available to newcomers who are applying for status. Often, people are deported because of simple paperwork mistakes, poor legal representation or technicalities. It's an almost impossible maze to navigate alone and with Harper's Immigration Minister Jason Kenney cutting $43 million from newcomer and immigrant services in Ontario next year, it's going to get even harder for newcomers to get the help they need to have their claims reviewed fairly.
Many people this morning also expressed a frustration that there was no place for a community voice in this process. Nichole's employer would guarantee her another 2 years of work and housing but there was no opportunity for her employer to share this with the government because the immigration process lacked transparency and is not using a community-based model. It is this lack of justice, kindness and fairness that has residents upset.
"Nichole is exactly the kind of woman, the kind of Canadian we want in our community." said Macia Caine, a local resident. "She's a volunteer, she doesn't take from the government, she pays her taxes… and this is how we repay her?"
What makes this situation exceptionally tragic is that Nichole's 10 year old daughter, Renata, will be deported before the end of her school year. This child who has lived here most of her life will be forcibly removed from her friends and teachers rather than be allowed to stay just 3 more months and end her time in Canada with a more natural closure and with her school year intact. Erickson believes this is another example of how the Harper government fails to apply the law with compassion and prioritizes rules over respect.
"Here we have a situation where the government, the force that is supposed to protect us from violence, is actually the force of violence." said Erickson. "Clearly, something is very wrong and it is my hope that people like myself and other members of the New Democratic Party will be in a position to prioritize peace in the application of justice."