Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Joe Volpe and Deportation to Torture

Here's a report on an action of the Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada that I attended while in southern Ontario last week:

About 35 people showed up to mark United Nations Day outside the Toronto office of Immigration Minister Joe Volpe October 24. It was Mr. Volpe's delegate who determined in September that one of the Secret Trial Five, Mahmoud Jaballah, should be sent to torture or murder in Egypt.

While politicians in Ottawa made hypocritical statements about Canada, the UN, world order, etc., members of the Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada wanted to remind the public that Canada is acting in defiance of a UN call for Canada to end the practice of deportation to torture.

Currently, the Canadian government is attempting to deport five Arab Muslim men to torture or death based on secret evidence neither they nor their lawyers are allowed to see. They represent the tip of a much larger iceberg, as over 10,000 people are annually sent through the deportation mill to an uncertain fate (this at a time when Canada says it wants more immigrants!).

But Mr. Volpe, who for two years has evaded protesters, delegations, and family members most affected by these draconian policies, continues to make himself scarce. After a small group that included Mona Elfouli, whose husband is secret trial detainee Mohammad Mahjoub, managed to gain entrance to the lobby of the Volpe office, they were told by office staff that Mr. Volpe flat out refused to meet with them or even set a date for such a meeting.

The group waited inside a tiny vestibule for half an hour, as harried office staff, alarmed that members of the community would be seeking some accountability from the government, made frantic calls to Ottawa to find out what they should do. In the end, a young man came out to inform us, through the newly installed thick glass barrier that separates the lobby from the rest of the office (making it resemble a prison meeting room instead of the constituency office that is supposed to be a symbol of the democratic process), that Mr. Volpe is not responsible for deportation decisions, and that we should contact Anne McLellan, reigning czar of the Canadian Border Services Agency.

While we acknowledged that Ms. McLellan is indeed the individual at the head of the Canadian agency that is responsible for physically rendering human beings up for torture, it is in fact Mr. Volpe's department that makes the decision on whether or not someone meets the eligibility criteria to be deported to torture.

Elfouli was disappointed. She was told directly that no one would even set up a meeting with her and her children. When she tried to stand quietly in the main office (the door to the new barracks is not yet complete), she was physically pushed away by an office staffer. She left a very large note which asked Volpe how he can sleep at night, how he can refuse to answer her directly about what he plans for her husband and the other secret trial detainees.

While the Raging Grannies sang to passersby and three very large banners were prominently displayed along Lawrence Ave. West, a constituent of Mr. Volpe's asked what was going on. When informed of the situation, he sneered at the office, and made an unprintable comment about how little Volpe does for anyone.

(Action report by MB.)

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