(en) Fwd: Political refugee appeals for assistance

James Dumaine (James_Dumaine@babylon.montreal.qc.ca)
23 Oct 1997 03:16:27 GMT

A AA AAAA The A-Infos News Service AA AA AA AA INFOSINFOSINFOS http://www.tao.ca/ainfos/ AAAA AAAA AAAAA AAAAA

URGENT APPEAL: Financial Assistance needed to help free political refugee detained in Canada

Steven Brown is a 38-year old political refugee from Surinam, who arrived in Canada in 1987. For almost four years now, he has been jailed at the Metro West Detention Centre in Toronto on an immigration hold. On Tuesday, October 10th, he was finally approved for release, but he must pay a $5,000 cash bond to secure his freedom. This is an opportunity we cannot allow to slip from our fingers. We know that this is a staggering amount of money we need to raise, but if everyone who reads this sends us $3, we will not only have the bail money, but also have an extra $1000 to help Steven secure housing, employment, and other basics upon release.

Background: In Surinam during the 1980s, Steven had been active in popular movements opposed to the corrupt military dictatorship in that country, which was responsible for countless extra-judicial murders, tortures, disappearances, and mass detentions and incarcerations. His activism made him a target for the authorities, and this forced him flee the country. He arrived in Miami, Florida, where upon arriving it was suggested to him by some social workers that he try applying for refugee status in Canada, which was roughly described to him as a "multicultural, non-racist, classless, social democratic and free society."

Upon arriving in Canada, he applied for refugee status, and he was accepted, on the grounds that he had every reason to fear facing persecution, torture, and likely death if sent back home.

However, things shortly after took a downturn, as like most refugees, he quickly found that contrary to what he had been told, racism and poverty are very much alive and well in Canada. Feeling isolated, angry, and traumatized, he turned his grief inwards and he began using drugs. It did not take very long for Steven to find himself severely addicted to various illicit substances, and forced to hustle in order to support his habits and pay off debts owed to dealers. Things continued to go downhill from there, culminating in his arrest for possession of crack cocaine for the purpose of trafficking in 1993, for which he was convicted in 1994 and sentenced to four months in prison.

He served his time in a provincial institution, and was all set to be released, when he suddenly found himself declared to be a "danger to the public" by Immigration Canada, under Section 70.5 of the Immigration Act. For those not familiar with this clause of the act, S.70.5 gives the Immigration Minister the power to order anyone who is not a Canadian citizen to be stripped of whatever status they have in the country, detained indefinitely, and finally deported. This clause has had a disastrous impact on many communities of colour. Given how arbitrarily this label is applied, it has resulted in countless people, especially young men from the Caribbean and from the African continent, who have been convicted of minor and non-violent (mainly drug-related) offenses being deported back to countries where, in many cases, they have not lived since infancy. Often they have no remaining family or community connections in their original countries. In Steven's case, they stand a great chance of being tortured or possibly murdered because of their past political activities or affiliations.

That anyone in Canada, a country which claims to value human rights and says it is opposed to the death penalty, ends up being sentenced to death (albeit indirectly) all because of a minor non-violent criminal offence for which they have already done their time is in complete contravention of international humanitarian laws and basic human decency.

Immigration Canada has already attempted to deport Steven, taking him back to Miami before they were advised by the regime in Surinam that he is not and will never be permitted to return. As a result of his being declared as a "danger", Steven has been in jail for close to four years now, languishing indefinitely along with countless other refugees from all over the world at the Metro West Detention Centre, waiting in limbo for Immigration Canada to make some kind of a decision about what is going to happen to him.

This is where our current appeal comes in. As was previously mentioned, Steven has been approved for release, but this is a decision that can (and given the lack of consistency at immigration detention review hearings, most probably will be) reversed, unless the needed amount of money is secured and posted NOW!

If released, Steven is still going to have to have to argue his case on humanitarian grounds before the Federal court in order to ensure that the "danger to the public" label is removed. Steven Brown is very much deserving of all our support. He successfully kicked his addictions and rehabilitated himself on his own terms. He is also a long time activist who made numerous sacrifices for the liberation of his people back home. Even as a prisoner he has been involved in fighting for the rights of all those he has been incarcerated with, organizing petitions to the Immigration Minister and helping to organize two hunger-strikes in protest of the ill-treatment of refugees in detention. As of this writing, we have 18 days to raise the money and no time to waste.

For more information, please call: Daniel Rojas-Orrego (416) 537-1172 Okezie Iroaga (416) 975-0877

or pns@pathcom.com

October 21, 1997

An account has been set up at Bread and Roses Credit Union, Account #4742.

Bread and Roses Credit Union 21 Vaughan Rd Ste 108 Toronto, Ont M6G 2N2 (416) - 651-6155

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