The weather outside as I write this belies the fact that it is mid-March and we are less than a week away from the official start of Spring. But the frigid cold temperatures we have experienced in the past week did not deter the tens of thousands of women, children and male and non-binary allies who showed up to celebrate and protest across the province as we observed International Women’s Day.
Executive Director's Message
As I walked the cold Toronto streets on Saturday February 4, in solidarity with Muslim Canadians and with immigrants and refugees from the seven Muslim majority countries banned by Executive Order by the US President, I couldn’t help but reflect how different this Black Lives Matter Toronto led solidarity march was from the women’s march held in January on these same cold streets. There was the difference in numbers of course – sixty thousand at the women’s march versus a few thousand at the Muslim solidarity march, but even more important was the make-up of the crowd. At Saturday’s march the crowd was primarily young and of colour. Muslim women in hijab and bare headed, Black and Indigenous people, college and university students, young and not so young workers, activists, Faith leaders and representatives from the Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, Yoruba, Akan, Voodun traditions, Agnostics and Atheists all chanting and marching in solidarity, saying with one voice “not in my name’.
Sometimes symmetry is what you don’t want to happen, even when it benefits one’s cause. This is the situation we find ourselves in as we launch the first phase of the Council’s campaign against racism, Islamophobia and xenophobia. In our very many discussions and debates about the content, analysis, tone and messaging of the campaign we talked about competing isms, about intersectionalities, about social construction of identities and about the very real soul destroying experiences of individuals and communities who are marginalized, excluded and ‘othered’ within our society.
(This installment of the ED message is taken from a keynote address to the Employment Ontario Leadership Summit in May 2016. It has been edited for publication.)
On the day that I am writing this blog, the 10,000th Syrian refugee landed at Toronto Pearson airport. This fact made a small splash in the media as the conversation about whether the federal government will meet its various deadlines and arrival numbers of Government assisted and privately sponsored or the ‘best of both worlds' (as a colleague recently said) the blended version (BVOR – Blended Visa Office Referral) continued.
This month marks the thirtieth anniversary (1985 Singh decision) of the Supreme Court of Canada's decision that recognized the rights of refugees to fundamental justice. It is a decision that we continue to celebrate. The anniversary, three decades later serves as a reminder of how collective activism can triumph and of the importance of supporting politically and financially, advocacy organizations like the Canadian Council for Refugees - who for over thirty-five years has led the national struggle for justice and fairness for those coming to our borders seeking protection and refuge.