Migrant justice activists and organizers, with their McGill allies, confronted and disrupted Jason Kenney -- Canada's Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism -- before and during a closed function with Conservative McGill.
At least 50 protesters, in an action called by No One Is Illegal-Montreal, were able to surround Kenney in the Arts Building as he tried to enter the private event. For about one minute, Kenney was asked about the report in today’s Toronto Star that a Mexican woman, who twice tried to apply for refugee status to Canada, was found murdered in Mexico [story here]. Kenney brushed off the question and didn’t answer.
Kenney was also asked explicitly about his party’s blocking of a refugee appeals division, and again he didn’t answer.
When Kenney was told by a member of No One Is Illegal that his policies scapegoat migrants and pander to racists, Kenney replied (with a hint of sarcasm): “I plead guilty, I’m a racist.” At that point, Kenney’s handlers and security pushed through protesters to get Kenney inside the venue.
For the next hour and more, protesters chanted and made noise to disrupt the event from outside. The protest was partially a teach-in as demonstrators gave speeches about Kenney’s track-record, highlighting in particular:
- the murder in Mexico of Grise, a woman who twice tried to claim refugee status in Canada but was refused
- the Conservatives continued refusal to implement a refugee appeals division;
- the recent treatment of Sri Lankan migrants who are currently detained in British Columbia;
- Kenney’s introduction of visas for Mexicans and Czechs while falsely misrepresenting their refugee claims as bogus;
- Kenney’s role in US-style mass raids on migrant workers in Ontario this past April;
- Kenney’s unapologetic defense of Israeli war crimes in Gaza and Lebanon;
- Kenney’s attack on free speech by preventing the entry of George Galloway into Canada;
- Kenney’s involvement in cutting the funding of the Canadian Arab Federation (CAF);
- Kenney’s proposed changes to the status of migrant workers, which makes their situation more precarious;
- the trend under Kenney and the Conservatives to push migrants into temporary worker categories;
- Kenney's defense of Conservative policies justifying rendition to torture and security certificates;
- the lifting of the moratorium on deportations to Burundi, Rwanda and Liberia, while making it harder for other migrants to make refugee claims;
- Kenney’s record of comments that pander to racists, by inaccurately portraying migrants as abusive of the immigration and refugee system.
- and more (!).
Members of Solidarity Across Borders, active in support work with local migrants facing removal, also spoke to the day-to-day reality of deportation and detention in Montreal, citing examples of local individuals and families fighting for status, in defiance of removal orders.
At one point, two members of Conservative McGill – Gregory Harris and Derek Beigleman -- began chanting “We love Kenney, we love Kenney.” Protesters stayed silent for at least a minute, and then asked the Conservatives about their view on the murder of Grise, as well as Conservative immigration and refugee policies that allowed the tragedy to happen. The two Conservatives laughed throughout the narration of Grise’s deportation and eventual death.
"And more": Kenney prejudicing the refugee claim process for US war resisters by publicly referring to them as "bogus refugees," his refusal to stop the planned deportation of war resisters, his refusal to implement the two motions passed by a majority of Members of Parliament to stop the deportations and allow the war resisters to stay in Canada.
But at least occasionally he can speak the truth.