a morning in Montreal

by undoingborders

We arrived to the city of Montreal, Quebec with less than an hour before the start of our gathering – this is a first for us on this tour. Thank you to Quebec Public Interest Research Group (QPIRG) – Concordia for hosting our tour stop at their offices and QPIRG-McGill, No One is Illegal and Solidarity Across Borders for their organizing support as well.

“Homes not Colonies”, one of many magnificent posters at QPIRG Concordia offices.

Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGS) emerged and spread around the continent after the initial PIRG was founded by Ralph Nader in Washington in 1970.  Historically, the PIRGs’ mandate has been to provide a structure within which students and community members can develop the knowledge and practical skills needed in activism and community work. By providing a forum and training ground for people to be engaged community participants, the PIRG complements the academic structure by linking theory and practice. All PIRGs are directed by a volunteer board of governors composed of students and other community members. The diversity among PIRGs reflects the diversity of its membership and volunteer board.

When we arrived we met with Jaggi Singh, from
No One Is Illegal (NOII) in Montreal.  As he set up the room, he shared with us of the extraordinary amount of support against Paola Ortiz’ deportation – which the Canadian government carried out just the morning before. Paola was forced to leave behind two Canadian-born underage children for their safety, as she had applied for asylum after fleeing Mexico to escape abuse from her former spouse, a Mexican police officer. You can view media coverage about Paola’s situation compiled here by Solidarity Across Borders.

Jaggi was specially moved by Richard Ebiya Salvador’s speech at a rally in support of Paola Ortiz.  The following picture and quote are from Project Anakbayan blog entry, which has a link to the video.

“Richard Ebiya Salvador, a fifteen-year old teen is son of Melca Salvador.  Melca was fired from her work in Montreal as a caregiver when her employer found out about her pregnancy with Richard, and later, as a single mom was not able to find work fast enough.  As a live-in caregiver, Melca lost her status in Canada when she was not able to fulfill the strict requirement under the LCP to work 24 months of “live-in” within a period of three years. Melca became the vice-president of Pinay, a progressive Filipino women’s organization, in 1999 in recognition of her work with setting up and administering Pinay’s first migrant transition home.  Melca Salvador and her supporters won against a similar deportation order for Melca and Richard in 2001. Richard was only four years old at the time.” 

Solidarity Across Borders (SAS) is a migrant justice network based in Montreal, active since 2003.  Comprised of migrants and allies, they organize together to support individuals and families who are confronting an unjust immigration and refugee system.

SAS mobilizes around these main demands: an end to deportations and detentions and the abolition of double punishment of migrants with criminal records. They demand Status for All and are in the beginning stages of building a “Solidarity City” campaign.

We were also hosted by QTEAM, is a Montreal-based radical queer collective committed to anti-imperialism, anti-racism, short shorts, queering activist spaces and politicizing queer spaces, the downfall of single-issue politics, raging pervy queer dance parties, destroying all prisons, opening all borders, burning pink dollar$, and keeping on keeping on.

In talking to people organizing against Canadian immigration policy, a crack emerged in the we all were holding that somehow Canada is more welcoming of people without status that the United States.  In some ways, it seems life in Canada without status sets one up for particular hardships like inability to access healthcare at all, secure housing, or even send one’s kids to school.  Ed Lee, a volunteer coordinator with Ethnoculture,  shared a little about AGIR, an association whose membership includes a network of refugees, immigrants, community activists and service providers whose main purpose is to develop and provide services, resources and advocacy for LGBTQ refugees, immigrants and newcomers with no status within the Montreal-area.

Prisoner Correspondence FlyerOne of the projects that runs out of the QPIRG Concordia  offices is the Prisoner Correspondence Project,  a collectively-run project in Montréal that coordinates a direct-correspondence program for queer inmates in Canada and the United States and queer people outside of prison.

In addition, it coordinates a resource library of information regarding harm reduction practice (safer sex, safer drug-use, clean needle care), HIV and HEPC prevention, homophobia, transphobia, coming out, etc.

They really need new penpals and possibly people to start local chapters, as the number of requests they receive is far greater than their local capacity!