Chantier Politique

November 30, 2018

Special Dossier
All Out to Support Haitians in Quebec

For A Moratorium on Deportations of
Non-Status Persons of Haitian Origin

Every day dozens of people are being deported to Haiti. Non-status persons of Haitian origin awaiting deportation are experiencing insufferable harassment on the part of the Canadian government. One day the government is deporting them, the next day it is not. One day their application for asylum is refused, their deportation date is set, and the next it is annulled and they are told that they will be called back in a couple of weeks. This is an inhumane and untenable situation. The government announced a stay on the deportations planned for the week of November 19-25th, then on November 26th it resumed. The day after the interview below, conducted on November 27, the Canadian government announced a new, undetermined stay on expulsions.

Demonstration to Demand an End to the Deportation
of Non-Status Persons of Haitian Origin
Sunday, December 2nd -- 2:00 p.m.

 Outside the Riding Office of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
1100 Cremazie Boulevard East, Montreal
Organized by the Action Committee on Non-Status Persons


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Interview with Frantz André,
companion to Haitians threatened with deportation in Montreal and member of the Action Committee on Non-Status Persons

Frantz André speaks at a rally against deportation of Haitians seeking asylum, July 21, 2018.

Chantier politique: Hello Frantz. You are calling for a moratorium on the deportations. Can you elaborate?

Frantz André: What has to be understood is that a crisis was caused over the $3.8 billion that disappeared from PetroCaribe. PetroCaribe is an oil alliance with Venezuela for the purchase of oil under preferential payment conditions. The funds saved were supposed to go towards development actions for the population. The $3.8 billion was a starting point. The person who began questioning this is Gilbert Mirambeau, a filmmaker of Haitian origin in Montreal. While questioning it and fed up with what was going on in Haiti, he wrote on a piece of cardboard "Kote kob petrocaribe a?" (Where did the PetroCaribe money go?) and circulated it on Facebook. That snowballed. All the youth in Haiti who were denouncing the government began doing the same thing.

Getting back to that $3.8 billion that disappeared, accountability was demanded. A senate committee was set up, the Senate Committee on the Management of PetroCaribe Funds, which submitted its report in November of 2017. A few people were singled out, although not necessarily those who were responsible. And there was never really any follow-up after that. The movement demanded justice and accountability. But clearly the report never went any further. We even know that certain senators benefitted and profited from that money, so they have no interest in taking this any further.

The current mass demonstrations taking place have given rise to riots. Following on the heels of PetroCaribe, the government aggressively increased the price of fuel by 50 per cent at the beginning of July. And of course the population reacted. Riots took place on July 6, 7 and 8. There were some deaths and material damage. And at that time, the government resigned. Then there was another attempt at a new government. What is noteworthy is that on July 6, 7 and 8th, the Canadian government closed its embassy and requested that Canadians not travel to Haiti unless it was essential and asked that those already in Haiti return home. So, with regard to asylum seekers being deported, we said: if this is not good for Canadians, why would it be good for people who left for reasons of insecurity? It's at that point that I made a request for a moratorium. As of then, we held demonstrations outside the offices of Immigration Canada, on July 14th, the 21st and the 30th, and then on PetroCaribe.

Now, how does all this affect asylum seekers here, who benefitted last week from a 7-day reprieve? With the demonstrations taking place daily in Haiti, over 30 people have been massacred by machetes, people have been killed in demonstrations, a car drove into protestors killing 9 people, so the population is paying the price. Based on credible sources, gangs are fighting each other and are being armed by the government and the opposition, amongst others. So there's an attempt at stifling the issue of accountability on PetroCaribe by crying out about the instability. In my view, a mini civil war is going on. And the fact that between November 19th to the 25th the government stopped the deportations, within four-month period, is once again an admission that Haiti is not a safe country. So then why this constant stop again start again scenario rather than putting something more permanent in place, such as telling people, for example, that a year will be taken to see whether or not the government is credible and takes up the issue of PetroCaribe. So we, as Canadians, have a moral duty not to send people back like that, particularly not in this start again stop again mode. This creates anxiety amongst people, the uncertainty that they could be deported at any time.

There's a young woman, a single mother, whose son was born in Canada, who was to be deported last week. She was called on the 20th and told she would not be leaving on the 21st. However, she had already given up her apartment, given away all her furniture as she didn't have the time to sell it, and now her sole belongings are in her suitcases. She is staying with someone while waiting to be convoked, as she was told that she would be called back in 3-4 weeks to determine a deportation date. It's as if people have been sentenced to death and are in their cells waiting to be executed. It's the equivalent of the U.S. death penalty.

A camp hosting refugees who entered Canada from the United States in Lacolle, Quebec on August 17, 2017. Most of the refugees are Haitians who have fled, fearing that the U.S. will force them to return to Haiti.

CP: What's the situation here in Montreal?

FA: It must be noted that many hearings have not taken place. With the massive arrival of refugees last year, the system was overwhelmed, both in terms of the border as well as receiving centres. As far as legal aid goes, there's a perpetual catching up and until now, a lot of improvisation has been going on. Amongst other things, people are caught without being able to access the legal services with lawyers to check if the files of asylum seekers are well prepared. Lawyers today are disarmed, they're giving up. Abritrary criteria are being left to the discretion of someone, who in our opinion, has received refusal and acceptance quotas. Quotas were more or less announced last year when Emmanuel Dubourg was sent to the U.S. on two occasions to dissuade the Haitian community. He had agreed to go. The first time he was sent, just like Mr. Trudeau and Marc Garneau, who was the first to speak, he said that between 40 to 50 per cent of Haitian asylum seekers were being accepted. Dubourg returned a second time, and brought the message that only 10 per cent were being accepted. This was done to discourage not only Haitians but also Salvadorans and other communities. The 10 per cent was based on an analysis of 297 cases, of which only 29 had been accepted. But the 270 others have the right of recourse federally, on humanitarian grounds, etc. And 297 cases out of around 6,000 is not representative. Between 2012 and 2016, the acceptance rate was between 40 and 50 per cent. Last year, it fell to 22 per cent. Two weeks ago, the rate was 17 per cent. And now, I believe, it is close to 10 per cent.

I began accompanying people to 1010 Saint-Antoine Street West [Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada - Quebec Office - note from Chantier politique] in June, only to find that the way in which people are being received, in such an extremely disgraceful, disrespectful and aggressive manner to determine whether or not the person may resist, and if they should be immediately detained. They are then sent to the Laval Detention Centre. There are about 150 people there. And now they have decided to build another detention centre right beside the present one, because that one is supposedly obsolete. However, I think that it's to increase detention capacity, because the Canadian government has announced that between now and March 2019, it will increase the number of deportations to 10,000. During a pre-election year, it must appear to be in control. Therefore it is using a particularly precarious community, Haitians, and deporting them. We are invoking this situation of civil war to demand a moratorium. They are also being deported at the taxpayer's expense. If people have no money to buy their ticket, the government supplies it but then people are told that if they come back, they must reimburse the ticket. I found tickets last week for $280. The government is asking $1,500. Besides this they must pay over $550 in application fees to come back. So it costs $2,050 for the right to return, on top of other fees.

CP: What would you like to say to conclude?

FA: I invite people to come out and demonstrate this Sunday, December 2nd at 2:00 p.m., outside the riding office of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, at 1100 Cremazie Boulevard East to demand an immediate moratorium on deportations.

(Translated from the original French by Chantier politique. Photos : Chantier politique, Haiti Progrés, Haiti Liberté)

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