Panel discussion on deportation and community involvement
On March 18, the (Im)migrant and Refugee Rights Coalition of Guelph-Wellington hosted a discussion panel titled, “Talking about Deportation and Community Responses to it” as the first event of the (Im)migrant Myth busting Week. This panel welcomed special guests Yvonne Runstedler and Matthew Behrens to discuss deportation and help others understand the procedure behind it.
Behrens is the founder of the Anne Frank Sanctuary Committee, and has worked diligently to advocate for justice with those who do not have their full citizenship. He explained the hardships that those facing deportation go through.
“A lot of the things that these people go through are not widely known, because the community turns away when it is brought up,” Behrens noted, as he explained how many immigrants are judged on whether they can stay in Canada based on the country that they derive from.
“If a family comes from a country which is considered a ‘working democracy,’ that will greatly influence the type of healthcare that they get or even if they can stay in Canada. That is not fair, that’s actually the definition of discrimination.”
Runstedler explored the topics further, explaining that, “These people are terrified of what they’ll face when they return to their country. If a person is afraid of water, you don’t throw them in the deep end.”
The speakers also emphasized the need for community involvement to help these families. “Many Canadians turn away when they hear about this sort of thing. What we need to be doing is getting involved, having discussions, [and] taking initiatives to help,” explained Runstedler. “Write letters, create or sign a petition, be active in social media to spread the word. We need to change this political climate.”
Fuerza-Puwersa is an all-volunteer group in Guelph that aims at exposing the hardships that migrants in the Canadian working class endure. They offer to discuss the topic of immigrant discrimination in more detail with interested students.
“Asking questions and engaging in conversation is the first step in helping – it’s simple,” said Runstedler.
Other events that took place during the week included a day of action on March 19 in the University Centre Courtyard, where students could get more information about the experiences of migrants, refugees, immigrants and international students in Canada, as well as have the opportunity to discuss the work of on-campus groups focused on immigrant rights.
Later in the day, another panel discussion was held on “The Refugee Experience in Canada.”
On March 20, Gloria Nafziger from Amnesty International visited the campus to discuss the state of refugee rights in Canada.
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