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After 18 days of non-stop occupation to prevent the deportation of approximately 100 international students, organisers were able to declare victory in mid-June after the Federal government announced a halt to the procedures for eight weeks. Following the announcement that students were to be deported after being duped by fraudsters posing as immigration officers, hundreds of people launched the demonstration outside a Canada Border Services Agency across from Pearson International Airport in Mississauga.
As the Minister of Immigration Sean Fraser declared on May 26, the Canadian government, while being aware that the students had been duped, still intended to deport them. As early as June 7, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Immigration passed a motion to investigate the fraudulent situation, but the government didn’t declare the halting of the deportations until June 14.
Harinder, a former international student and current organiser, explained to North Star that "it is certainly a success in that we have been able to halt the deportation of students, but it is by no means a total victory, only a partial one. Right now, seeing how many people showed up to support and how far we went, we think that if the government doesn't hold up its side of the bargain, we will still be ready for whatever happens next."
"We have to wait 8 weeks for the answer to the delayed decision on the deportations, and our demands have mostly been met. However, we demanded the removal of the word 'misrepresentation' on the students' files, but Canada's Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said that this term will remain. Students will hopefully still be able to get work permits and apply for permanent residency."
Bikram, who also spoke with North Star, expressed gratitude for the strong support received from the Punjabi Sikh community, students, and youth. He highlighted that their needs and expectations were met, and mentioned the similarity between the farmers' protest in India and the support witnessed in Canada.
ਮੋਰਚੇ ਦੀ ਨੀਹਾਂJune 14, 2023
Selfless community members:
the foundation of struggle
Led by the students facing deportation (IG: @stand_for_student), this ongoing morcha would be impossible without the volunteers who do seva (selfless service) even when they’re not asked to. #StopDeportations pic.twitter.com/bOFmHiTlix
During the 18-day protest, the students were faced with historic levels of bad air quality from forest fires, as well as several days of rain. But they were able to sustain the bad weather with food donations from local restaurants and temples. Wooden pallets to keep off the flooded pavement were delivered from truck drivers amidst the larger steady stream of community support.
Arin, part of the Naujawan Support Network, told North Star, "The organization was there in a supporting capacity, and we have been organizing other student actions in the Peel region since July 2021." After the protest ended, the students came together to organize a three-day prayer to thank the community. Arin personally experienced the event by serving langar, a Sikh tradition of offering mutual aid through communal kitchens.
Harinder, looking back on their progress, says, "The very first day was nearly 1 year ago, and we had only 15 students." As they organized actions and protests, they started to feel the need to grow their movement. "We wanted to get more people's attention so we went to social media and reached a lot of people through social media." The ongoing protest outside the Immigration Detention facility in Toronto is just the beginning, as the next eight weeks will determine the future of hundreds of students.
Arin also highlighted their focus on fighting exploitation and recovering wages for workers in the previous few years: "Over the course of three years, we have recovered over $350,000 in wages for 70 workers, and a lot of this wage theft happens for international students." Other achievements include other successful mobilizations, such as a sit-in at Alpha College, resulting in the establishment of a student union. Arin believes that their tactics can inspire others, seeing each victory as a victory for the working class at large.