No One is Illegal: Education NOT Deportation!

The bureaucratic nature of Immigration and Citizenship administration  in Canada creates a marginal space in which a person’s citizenship status plays a significant role determining their quality of life, regardless of their status as a human. No One Is Illegal – Toronto (NOII), is a network of refugees, immigrants, migrant workers and local community groups who support people with ambiguous status in Canada. This network advocates for the rights of marginalized people to access essential public services as they engage with oppressive immigration policies.

In 1993 the Ontario Education Act was revised to include section 49.1 stating: “A person who is otherwise entitled to be admitted to a school and who is less than eighteen years of age shall not be refused admission because the person or the person’s parent or guardian is unlawfully in Canada” (Ontario Ministry of Education website). This symbolizes progress in immigration activism, however in application barriers to education still exist as exemplified by the 2006 case of Kimberly and Gerald Lizano-Sossa who were detected and arrested by immigration officials seeking the expulsion of their father. As an attempt to impede the deportation order of this family and others in similar situations, NOII helped raise awareness for the Education Not Deportation (END) campaign. in conjunction with Access Without Fear – Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy recommendations. NOII alongside community members, teachers, students and union groups provide support to many families living in fear of being detected, detained and deported by Immigration enforcement authorities.

The END campaign seeks to uphold the provision of section 49.1 of the Education Act ensuring public education is accessible on a basis of need, rather than citizenship (Don’t Ask) and a students’ status (or that of their parents/guardian) does not become disclosed to Immigration Canada, Canada Border Services Agency, or CSIS (Don’t Tell). To communicate the Access Without Fear principal, a successful DADT policy would encourage educators and public school administrators to communicate that Ontario Public Schools are safe places for students of all status in Canada. Additionally, prohibit the use of municipal funds to enforcement federally determined detention or deportation orders (NOII website).

Accessibility of essential services such as education, health care, housing or social assistance can not only be denied on the basis of status but can also result in detention and deportations of parents and guardians of Canadian children. This particular type of marginalization has significant negative implications for not only students but also people with disabilities, women and victims of domestic violence. From these social positions seeking police or medical assistance for example, can agitate an aggressor (or sole financial provider) or cause additional emotional, mental and psychological distress.

Due to inconsistent implementation of DADT policies some agencies and schools agree to help residents, and students while others do not. This also sustains administrative barriers to accessibility. An individual referral may be refused by a partnering agency, and inconsistency flourishes in a current neoliberal regime of power in which services increasingly privatize and the acquisition of funds is linked to service eligibility criteria based on citizenship status.

Sources:

No one is illegal – Toronto | STATUS FOR ALL!! ACCESS WITHOUT FEAR. http://toronto.nooneisillegal.org/education(2009, December 1). Retrieved December 6 , 2014.

Education Not Deportation Documentary: A voice for kids too afraid to go to school (Nov 2009, Toronto Star): http://vimeo.com/7698225

Ontario Ministry of Education Website: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/extra/eng/ppm/136.html

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