His humanitarian and compassionate claim was refused in November 2007, rendered largely on the basis that he 'does not have significant ties to Canada`. This is clearly a false assessment and one that appears to be motivated by the politics of the Conservative party rather than any real consideration of the facts, which includes over 40,000 petition signatures that were presented to Parliament in October 2007.
SUPPORT FOR LAIBAR SINGH
A long list of South Asian community groups, along with gurudwaras and other faith groups support Mr. Laibar Singh including Gurdwara Kalgidhar Sikh Society Abbotsford, Sri Guru Ravidass society Burnaby, South Asian Human Rights Group of Canada, Dasmesh Darbar Surrey, Canadian Singh Sabbha Surrey, Gurdwara Dukhnivaran Surrey, Holy Satsang Foundation Surrey, Akali Singh Sikh Society Vancouver, BC Hindu Mandir Burnaby, Khalsa Diwan Society New Westminister, B.C. Khalsa Darbar Society, Gurudwara Khalsa Darbar Vancouver, Fraser Valley Hindu Temple Abbotsford, Guru Nanak Sikh Temple Surrey, and others.
Despite popular perception and depiction, a wide range of supporters beyond the South Asian community support Mr. Singh including the Canadian Labour Congress, Hospital Employees Union, BC Coalition of People with Disabilities, Council of Canadians BC/Yukon Chapter, Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Multifaith Action Committee, Canadian Muslim Union, Ligue des droits et libertés du Québec, Association of Chinese Canadians for Equality and Solidarity Society, Student Christian Movement of Canada, Campaign for Democratic Media, Save our Rivers Society, Toronto Disabled Action Movement Now, Sikh Lawyers Association Toronto, Indigenous Free Skool, Solidarity Across Borders Montreal, No One Is Illegal Toronto, Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, Industrial Workers of the World, Vancouver Status of Women, La Surda Latin American Collective, Interfaith Community Consultative Committee of the SFU Interfaith Summer Institute, Students for a Democratic Society UBC, Halifax Coalition Against Poverty, Vancouver Catholic Worker, Immigrant Workers Centre Montreal, Canadian Youth Network for Asia Pacific Solidarity, Sudbury Against War and Occupation.
Individuals such as Michael A. Leitold of the Law Union of Ontario Steering Committee, Janet Cleveland who holds the Canada Research Chair in International Migration Law, noted authors and researchers Naomi Klein and Seth Klein, Professor Emeritus Roy Miki (Order of Canada), Kader Belaouni who has been in sanctuary in Montreal since Jan 2006, Sister Elizabeth Kelliher of the Fransican Sister of the Atonement, labour activists such as Dave Bleakney of CUPW and Frank Lee of CUPE, academics such as John Price, Nandita Sharma, Cynthia Wright, Gary Kinsman, Rita Wong, and Mary Jo Nadeau, and Rabble Editor Derrick O’Keefe have also lent their support to Mr. Singh.
Mr. Laibar Singh has also received support from provincial MLA's and federal MP's from all political parties.
Mr. Singh subseqently faced deportation on December 10th, 2007- International Human Rights Day. In a historic and unprecedented move, approximately 1500-2000 people including elders, women, and children converged at the Vancouver International Airport and peacefully surrounded his vehicle. In doing so, they were expressing their commitment to moral values and were acting out of a sense of justice and compassion to protect human life. These kinds of acts have a long tradition in human rights struggles around the world, where people take a stand against harmful laws and unjust government decisions.
KNOW THE FACTS!
Much of the public perception around Mr. Singh has unfortunately been fuelled by inaccurate facts. Mr. Laibar Singh did not enter Canada “illegally“. He arrived in Canada on a fake Indian document, which he declared to Canadian immigration authorities, as laid out by both international and Canadian refugee law which recognizes the reality that many asylum seekers will be forced to travel on fake documents.
Lawyer Michael A. Leitold of Roach, Schwartz & Associates and a member of the Law Union of Ontario Steering Committee states “Contrary to media reports, Laibar arrived legally in Canada, and declared his false documents, which is a normal part of the refugee process enshrined in Canadian and International law. Writing as a member of the Law Union of Ontario, I would like to state that I support Laibar's right to stay in Canada where he can receive the care he needs to live in dignity."
This is affirmed by Janet Cleveland, Canada Research Chair in International Migration Law at the Universite de Montreal. “The fact that Mr. Singh used false documents to enter Canada and to claim refugee status cannot be held against him, as is stated expressly in the Geneva Convention and other instruments of international and Canadian Law. I would like to reiterate that I support Laibar Singh’s right to stay In Canada.”
In addition, Mr. Singh was never handed down a deportation order prior to the one in July 2007. He has, therefore, never been "illegal" in Canada before publicly taking sanctuary at the Abbotsford Gurudwara. There are an increasing number of sanctuary cases — currently at least 10 sanctuary cases across Canada — that represent a growing movement of faith communities that are witnessing and responding to the structural flaws in the immigration and refugee system.
For example, Immigration and Refugee Board members are political appointees who are not mandated to have any experience in the law; there is no Refugee Appeal Division despite its guarantee provided in the June 2002 Immigration and Refugee Protection Act; certain avenues such as the Pre Removal Risk Assessment have acceptance rates of 3-5% while others such as the Humanitarian and Compassionate claim do not have to be processed prior to deportation. The refugee system has been termed a "lottery system" because acceptance rates can vary from 0-80% depending on the judge. Most recently, the Federal Court of Canada struck down the Safe Third Country Agreement between the US and Canada which was creating "Fortress Canada" by disallowing up to 40% of asylum seekers.
HIS HEALTH STATUS
On October 9, 2007, a group of health care professionals- including 13 independent doctors- issued a letter to Immigration Minster Diane Finley stating, "Deporting Mr. Singh would mean preventing him from accessing necessary health care services, removing him from a remarkable support network that is providing for his needs, uprooting him from his new home and family and sending him away to total insecurity and uncertainty. The deportation of Mr. Singh from Canada could be synonymous with a death sentence... For the sake of his safety, health and well being, we fully support him and demand that [the Minister] grant him permanent residency status on the basis of humanitarian and compassionate grounds immediately."
As written by the B.C Hospital Employees Union “As health care workers on the frontline we fight to preserve a public healthcare system whereby people receive medical treatment based on their health needs. We do not judge people based on their income, social status or behaviour… Clearly Mr. Singh is in need of medical attention… Therefore we ask that as Minister of Citizenship and Immigration you allow Mr. Laibar Singh to remain in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds and ensure that his medical needs are met."
There have been recent reports attempting to downplay the severity of Mr. Singh's medical condition and demonstrate inconsistency. There can be no doubt about, and Immigration Canada health assessements themselves recognize, the severity of Mr. Singh's long-term disability and paralyis.
In a deliberate and under-handed attempt to thwart outcry, Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) provided Mr. Singh with extremely short notice of a deportation for an absurd hour of the morning on January 9th. Despite attempts to portray the resulting protest of January 9th as ‘mob rule’ or that ‘protestors thwarted his deportation’, CBSA most likely did not enforce Mr. Singh’s removal simply to avoid violating Gurudwara sanctuary.
The Surrey Guru Nanak Gurudwara has made clear to CBSA that Singh is in sanctuary. Sanctuary is a public act of courage that faith communities take to protect the lives of those facing deportation. Sanctuary is predominantly understood within a Christian context in North America, with its roots in the Old Testament, in which forcible removal from sanctuary constituted sacrilege.
A wide variety of organizations and notable individuals have also called on the authorities to understand and respect the tradition of sanctuary, of which Mr. Singh has availed himself.
Denise Nadeau of the Interfaith Sanctuary Coalition and Acting Director of the SFU Interfaith Summer Institute states “The attempted deportation of Laibar Singh from sanctuary on January 9th and in the face of massive public support for this man’s right to dignity and to live with his community is a fragrant violation not only of sanctuary but of the basic human rights of disabled persons, of asylum seekers and of the democratic will of a significant proportion of the population.”
According to University of Toronto Professor Hillary Cunningham and author of Sanctuary and the Politics of Religion, “Religious groups have developed sanctuary as a way to underscore the humanitarian dimensions of asylum and have acted as an important voice of conscience in Canada against the potential excesses of the immigration system that can become overloaded and hyper-bureaucratized.” Dr. Cynthia Wright, York University states “I call on the immigration authorities to cease any attempt to violate the sanctuary provided to Mr. Singh and urge that he receive permanent residence immediately.” Rev. Margaret Marquardt Chairperson of the Justice and Peace Unit at Anglican Diocese of New Westminster states “We would like to affirm the tradition of sanctuary by religious bodies in Canada. It is of such value that it is used rarely and only enacted with wisdom and care.” Mary Jo Leddy on behalf of the Canadian Sanctuary Movement states “The granting of sanctuary is a sacred responsibility and the state has long recognized that it has no business in the sanctuaries of this nation.”
In fact, a May 2007 report by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration whose members include MP’s Norman Doyle, Andrew Telegdi, Meili Faille, Omar Alghabra, Dave Batters, Barry Devolin, Raymond Gravel, Nina Grewal, Jim Karygiannis, Ed Komarnicki, Bill Siksay, and Blair Wilson, recommended the following to Canadian Border Services Agency and Citizenship and Immigration Canada: “That CIC, the CBSA, and law enforcement officials respect the right of churches and other religious organizations to provide sanctuary to those they believe are in need of protection… That in cases of medical emergencies, those who have sought sanctuary, and members of their family, be allowed to receive medical treatment without the threat that they will be arrested or detained.”
DEMANDING THAT HE REMAIN IN CANADA
Finally, it is also important to note that Mr. Singh’s case is not unprecedented. In October 2006, a Polish family on tourist visas in Winnipeg suffered from a car accident that left the father paralyzed. Initially they were refused; however their deportation order was subsequently overturned. Ministerial discretion in humanitarian and compassionate claims can and has been exercised in the past to stop deportations; in fact it exists for that very purpose.
It is unfortunate that some are declaring that he must leave because he does not “belong” any longer, despite the fact that his newly found family and community are here. Certainly his physical state of paralysis, the hardship he will face if deported, and the widespread community support he has received are all crucial factors and realities for Mr. Singh and form the very basis of existing humanitarian and compassionate considerations in Canadian law. He, like anyone else, should be entitled to live a healthy and dignified life.
We must challenge the idea that some are more worthy than others to decide their right to mobility and their fate; instead we should accept these as universal values of humanity. Therefore the supporters of Laibar Singh are demanding that the Immigration Minister allow Laibar Singh to remain in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, contact Communities for Laibar Singh at 604 779 7430.