OP/ED: Status for All Actions in Surrey and Vancouver
Migrants — from undocumented people, to refugees, to foreign students — have been made scapegoats in Canada, with panics over migration ramping up along a variety of fronts, including housing, employment, and education. Over the last few weeks there has been a moral panic around foreign students, blaming them rather than housing profiteers for the country's lack of affordable housing and of shelters for unhoused people. This is part of the strategy by capital and the state to form enemies in times of crisis, to divert working-class attention and anger away from the causes of crisis — namely capital and the state themselves.
At the same time, migrants face bare state repression, with many held in provincial jails and many dying in detention. Since 2000, at least 18 people have died in immigration detention in Canada, most of them in provincial jails. This includes two deaths last year alone.
Opposition to the panics, repression, and violence directed against migrants requires mass mobilization and action for justice and equality. Migrant-led groups have been organizing for regularization for all undocumented people without exclusions or delays, with the aim of ensuring permanent resident status for all 1.7 million migrants across the country. The federal Cabinet will soon debate regularization. I am writing to urge you to advocate for this proposal by the Migrant Rights Network.
On September 17, ahead of the return of parliament for a session in which regularization will be debated, rallies and other actions were held in at least 16 cities across so-called Canada calling for Status for All. Sites included migrant detention centres, offices of the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), and other government departments. This included both an under-the-radar action in Surrey (unceded Kwantlen, Katzie, and Semiahmoo territories) at the migrant detention centre, and a mass action outside the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) building near immigration headquarters in Vancouver (unceded traditional territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh)) later in the day.
Action At the Migrant Detention Center in Surrey
Early in the day, activists, including members of Anti-Police Power Surrey (APPS), did a poster and stickering hit at the migrant detention centre on 76 Avenue in Surrey. This centre was the site where 25-year-old Pan Yuan died on December 25 last year. Incredibly, the circumstances of her detention were not explained publicly by CBSA or any Canadian media. It was provided by the Taiwan News, a media outlet in her country of birth. Her cause of death was ultimately revealed as suicide.
CBSA only announced the death on December 27 and did not release the cause of death or any additional details. In their only statement, CBSA said only that first responders were called to the centre, but “all efforts to revive the detainee were unsuccessful,” and the person was pronounced dead at the scene.
Status for All Rally in Vancouver
Later that evening, several hundred people attended a Status for All rally in downtown Vancouver. Groups present included Migrante BC, Care Not Cops 604, the Vancouver Tenants Union, and the Workers Solidarity Network. Speakers made connections between the exploitation of migrant workers and landlord profiteering, harmful working conditions, and expansions of carceral institutions and infrastructures. Connections were also made between climate crises and the repression of migrants, both those fleeing capitalist climate disasters and those forced to work even as wildfires and floods endanger their lives because they lack full labour rights. Seasonal agricultural worker and temporary foreign worker programs give capital a super-precarious workforce with few rights who face constant threats of deportation, including for organizing.
Opposing state and capitalist divide and conquer tactics that focus anger on scapegoated migrants, especially poor people, means forging solidarity in action and struggle. This means tenant organizing, workplace organizing, environmental movements, and anti-police struggles finding common cause and building infrastructures of resistance together. It also means, as many speakers noted, recognizing that no one is illegal on stolen land and fundamentally supporting Indigenous struggles, land and water defence, and landback assertions.
The Vancouver rally ended with the smashing of a pinata representing borders and the state’s repressive border policies. Smash the state, smash capital.