Reference Library – Canada – Manitoba
On November 8, 2016, everything changed. Donald Trump was elected president of the United States and many of our worst fears have already come to pass. What many Canadians don t know is that our government is about to hand significant powers over to the Trump administration that will allow American border security officers to arrest Canadians on Canadian soil. We should all be scared. Since taking office in January, Trump has advanced racist policies, attacked the free press, undermined the judiciary, maligned reasonable voices and courted controversy at every turn.
In the name of diplomacy, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has remained silent; he says it is not his duty to lecture another country. He pointed out that Trump s beef is not with Canada. Except the shockwaves of Trump s disastrous policies are now having a direct impact on Canada. Canadians have been turned away at the border because they were going to the Women s Day March, or because they re gay, or have Middle Eastern roots.
Refugees are now fleeing the States and crossing the Canadian border at unprecedented rates. These desperate refugees are risking life and literally losing limbs to illegally cross into Canada so they can claim sanctuary. Perhaps some of us feel our government s silence is something we just have to live with in the face of U.S. power. This is definitely a debate we need to have. But I don t believe any of us would knowingly support legislation that would cede power to U.S. officials on Canadian soil.
Newly empowered U.S. border guards will, under C-23, be allowed to detain, question, seize property, frisk, strip-search and arrest Canadian citizens on Canadian soil.
Last June, the Liberal government introduced Bill C-23, An Act respecting the preclearance of persons and goods in Canada and the United States. The bill s title may sound innocuous, and perhaps when Barack Obama was president we might have felt safer in handing over a piece of our sovereignty. Things are different now.
Bill C-23 has been characterized by Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale as an opportunity to make travel faster for Canadians and bolster trade with the United States. But if you take a closer look at the powers the new legislation gives U.S. border officials the same officials who have detained and questioned Muslims, gays and women it s pretty scary. The newly empowered U.S. border guards will, under C-23, be allowed to detain, question, seize property, frisk, strip-search and arrest Canadian citizens on Canadian soil.
C-23 not only gives new powers to U.S. border guards it takes away our own rights as Canadians. Currently, any Canadian who wants to exit a preclearance area can just walk away; it s still Canadian territory, after all. If C-23 is passed, it will not be so easy. Under C-23, once you re detained by a U.S. border guard, there is no escape; they decide when you can leave. And even if a Canadian traveller has an uneasy feeling and wants to leave the preclearance area prior to being detained, the new law would require that person to justify the decision to leave. In short, C-23 gives Trump s guards all the power they need to hold anyone they want.
Moreover, it threatens the right of permanent residents of Canada to be able to return home from abroad. And even if guards are found to be abusing this policy, the bill gives them protection from prosecution. Not only are we ceding our sovereignty on Canadian soil, we could end up stranding vulnerable Canadian residents in Trump s America with little recourse to protect ourselves. Handing President Trump the power to lock up Canadians is something we might have expected from the Harper government. I don t think any of us expected it from Prime Minister Trudeau. Bill C-23 has not yet passed but it will, if we don t start pushing back.
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Undeterred by the legal setback it suffered when a Federal Appeals Court put on hold the executive order banning immigration from seven predominantly-Muslim countries, the administration of US President Donald Trump is preparing new orders that would intensify the crackdown on undocumented aliens in the United States. Trump had hinted about a new version of the travel ban he issued earlier, and a pair of memos already outlined plans directing immigration officers to deport illegals who have engaged in willful representation and abused the benefits extended by the US government. New policies are being put into place to stem illegal immigration and facilitate the detection, apprehension, detention and removal of aliens who have no lawful basis to enter or remain in the United States. Officials of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said 10,000 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents would be hired in addition to 5,000 Customs and Border Protection agents, while other reports said the Trump government is also planning to deploy 100,000 of the US National Guard to help in the apprehension efforts on a nationwide scale.
The soon-to-be-issued revised order gives immigration agents broader powers to expedite removals or deportations without going through court proceedings, and key targets are those who have been in the US for less than two years. More detention centers will also be put up to hold those who will be caught by immigration agents. Sources said the upcoming immigration order would enable local enforcement authorities, such as policemen and sheriffs deputies to perform the functions of an immigration officer such as the conduct of investigation, apprehension and detention, with unconfirmed reports claiming that more than 10 million undocumented immigrants are being targeted for deportation, and these include not only those charged with crimes or have been convicted, but also those who are perceived to be dangerous. During the administration of Barack Obama, some 2.8 million were deported, but majority were convicted felons and violent offenders. Officials supportive of Trump say the government is merely doing what Congress and the office of the President has mandated them and that is to enforce the laws of the United States albeit more aggressively this time. The move is also supported by some Republicans who say poor enforcement has resulted in the massive entry of undocumented aliens in the US. One bright spot, however, is the continuation of Obama s DACA or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program wherein children known as DREAMers who were brought illegally into the US would be protected from deportation.
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Last week, ICE agents conducted sweeping raids in several areas that include Los Angeles believed to have one of the biggest populations of undocumented immigrants that include Filipinos. Much earlier, sources in Washington informed us that some 310,000 Filipinos are in the DHS list of individuals up for deportation, but the number could go as high as 800,000. While several organizations, including churches, have been extending assistance to Filipinos who are illegally staying in the US, some opportunists take advantage of the predicament of undocumented Pinoys by posing as immigration experts promising to help legalize their status at very high cost, sometimes reaching $40,000. In fact, there was this incident about a Filipino lawyer who kept charging for legal as well as documentation and processing fees for TNTs (tago ng tago which is a term for undocumented Filipinos) when in fact, he had no license to practice in the US. One of the victims who finally figured that he was being taken for a ride after paying thousands of dollars waited for the lawyer and gave him such a beating that left the lawyer almost crippled.
Actually, government agencies like the Department of Labor and Employment have already advised undocumented Filipinos to come home before the assumption of Trump as president due to the latter s campaign promise to crack down on illegals. Those who have been overstaying must also be advised that if they voluntarily leave the US, they will have an opportunity to apply for another visa at a later time. However, if they insist on illegally staying in the US and end up getting deported, they might not be able to reapply or even if they do, it would be after a very, very long time. The Trump immigration ban has also resulted in the spillover of undocumented individuals crossing the US border into Canada, with photographs showing dozens of individuals walking towards the province of Manitoba already circulating on the Internet. In fact, reports from the royal Canadian Mounted Police say they have observed a noticeable increase in the number of people crossing illegally to Canada. These include a group of Somalians who illegally entered the US via Mexico, and then braved the deadly cold winter to get into Canada almost losing their fingers in the process due to frostbite. A couple of men from Ghana however were not as fortunate because the doctors had to cut their fingers and took skin from their thighs to repair the other areas that were burned from frostbite. For these undocumented aliens, no sacrifice is big enough just to get out of the desperate circumstances they are in right now. As they say, desperate times call for desperate measures.
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Nancy Shomin first came to Standing Rock back in September after a stint in recovery for alcoholism. She was born in Flint, Michigan and had been the only native girl in her elementary school. Her father couldn t stop Nancy s classmates from bullying her, but he tried to balance his daughter s loneliness with a steady exposure to tribal customs and rituals. Her life had been spent in and out of institutions prison, rehab, therapy. In rehab, Nancy tried to process what had happened to her during a violent childhood, but she found that she was constantly doubting the veracity of her memories. She decided to head to Standing Rock because a friend had put out a call on Facebook. When Nancy first saw line of tipis by the Missouri River, she felt the neurosis of recovery melt away. Nancy quickly committed herself to life as a water protector. She went on marches to the pipeline construction site, got arrested, and spent time in jail. Whenever she would leave camp to see her family back in Michigan, she would feel a creeping unease what was she missing back in camp? Did the resistance still need her? She kept coming back to North Dakota and started picking up the camp s dual languages of activism and spirituality. She was no longer at Standing Rock to block the construction of the pipeline and protect the waters of the Missouri River from contamination but also to decolonize herself in a sacred space of prayer. At the front lines, where water protectors faced off with Morton County sheriff s deputies and the National Guard, Nancy played the role of a watcher she made sure the situation was in some semblance of control.
There s always one or two policemen who break away from the line, she said. And they re the ones you have to watch out for because something in them has broken, and they re going to be the ones who will respond violently to a prayerful protest. In early December, however, after the Army temporarily blocked the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, the Standing Rock Sioux leadership asked people to leave camp and return to their homes. They said they would fight any future battles in court. Nancy didn t leave because she, like many in camp, did not believe that the victory was a permanent one, especially with Donald Trump coming into office. Rumors were flying around that the tribe had been paid off by the state of Nevada, by the company building the pipeline, by the incoming presidential administration. But a blizzard in early December and the hierarchies of camp, which did not allow activist organizations to question tribal leadership, pushed most people out of camp. Nancy watched as the infrastructure of the camp, Oceti Sakowin the young lawyers, the bearded hippie builders, the cheery kitchen staff, and roving security force all left camp along with the most of the four thousand veterans who had crashed into camp the weekend of the Army s announcement as part of a doomed, nightmarishly disorganized campaign spearheaded by Wesley Clark Jr., the screenwriter son of the three-star general who ran for president, and Michael Wood Jr., a former Marine-turned-whistleblower with the Baltimore Police Department.
By early February, just two weeks after Trump signed a presidential memorandum to expedite construction of the pipeline, the ten thousand who had been in camp for the Army s announcement had been weeded down to a few hundred. Then, in compliance with his executive action, the Army Corps of Engineers reversed the previous decision and granted the final permit necessary to complete the pipeline.
A spell of unseasonably warm weather had started to melt the sheet of ice that covered camp throughout the winter and turned the ground at Oceti Sakowin into a bog of broken tents, coolers filled with rotting food, and abandoned, busted cars. A small network of tractors, backhoes, and dump trucks began to enter camp to start clearing away the tons of garbage. The putter of heavy machinery and the crashes of big bits of trash being dropped into a dumpster replaced the constant chatter of the camp. Nancy found a spot on higher ground and shacked up in an old Army tent with a few friends.
Now, the resistance at Standing Rock is on its last legs the legal challenges have gone unheeded. Tribal leadership has gone silent. The activist journalists that were sending out livestreams from the front lines have gone off with the rest of the media to cover the Trump presidency. At the Grammy Awards, Paris Jackson said to a cheering crowd, We could use this kind of excitement at a pipeline protest, guys. And then, awkwardly pumping her first, she said, Hashtag no DAPL. She was talking about a ghost there is no more protest at Standing Rock, and the people left at camp are split between those who have already resigned themselves to the inevitability that the pipeline will be built and those who talk to one another about some miracle they hope will still come down the line. In early February, the Army Corps told everyone to clear out of Oceti Sakowin by Feb. 22. Back in December, that kind of of ultimatum would have been absurd a sizable militia would have been needed to clear ten thousand people off the banks of the Missouri River. Now, with only a few hundred left, the infrastructure gone, and roadblocks set up that have deterred people from bringing supplies into camp, twenty committed police officers and a paddy wagon could uproot six months of continued protest and prayer. Nancy doesn t know exactly what will happen on Feb. 22, but she has no intentions on leaving camp. They re going to have to arrest people, she said. It s going to get ugly, whether it s bloodshed or not.
If the camp is, indeed, raided, the police will have to pick through dozens of empty tipis and tents to find and arrest the remaining water protectors. On Monday night, celebrities helped distribute a video on Facebook and Twitter that showed some of the remaining women and ended with this message: Protectors. Media. Get here by Feb. 21. The police have surrounded Oceti Sakowin camp. But there is no emergency deployment of activists heading to North Dakota today, no rush of young civil liberties lawyers, no critical mass of festival-goers or eco-warriors who will stand in front of the pipeline. The diagnosis is easy enough. When I first visited Standing Rock in early December, the camp had already been divided into a handful of warring factions. Some were disgusted with what the camp had become a holy ceremony of resistance had been overrun with festival goers and homeless people who had come to North Dakota for meals, shelter, and community. Others, including Wanbli, a Cheyenne River Sioux former police officer and high ranking member of the camp s security force, felt like the camp s leadership and it was never clear who was actually in change had sold everyone out. Everyone was accusing everyone else of corruption. When the good news came that the pipeline would be halted, however temporarily, all those tenuous bonds broke down. And although nearly everyone I spoke with in camp believed the incoming administration would simply reverse the decision, the false victory created enough space for collective exhaustion to set in. The blizzard that battered North Dakota in early December and the chaos of the veterans deployment finished it all off what had been a sprawling economy of protectors and support was now a mess of collapsed tents, stranded veterans, and people who had given up everything to come to Standing Rock and now had nowhere else to go.
Trump, of course, did the rest.
I do not know what it means for democracy and dissent that the ten thousand at Standing Rock could be so easily dispersed. It did seem to show the limits of a movement that scaled up almost entirely through social media and arresting images #NoDAPL became a shorthand for protest and resistance; a broadly sympathetic, yet still subversive cause for celebrities and the Facebook commentariat alike. The actual terms of what was happening remained largely undefined and poorly chronicled.
In early January, the New Yorker ran a column by Jelani Cobb in which he argued that a new wave of civil disobedience was taking over the country. He cited Standing Rock as proof Thousand of activists, Cobb wrote, including members of Black Lives Matter, and two thousand military veterans went to Standing Rock, to protest on the Sioux s behalf; last month, they endured rubber bullets and water hoses fired in freezing temperatures. This was all fantasy; the veterans arrived well after the night of violence Cobb describes. (In fact, many veterans said they had come because they had seen the footage of peaceful protesters being hit with a water cannon.) And while there were some Black Lives Matter activists at camp, they hardly proved that a movement of broad solidarity had taken root in North Dakota. The protectors who got hit with rubber bullets and tied themselves to construction equipment and soaked with water cannons were overwhelmingly Native American. All this could have been found with a quick Google search, but the fact that it wasn t shows just how much Standing Rock has been stretched into a vague idea what was once the physical act of putting one s body in front of a pipeline is now padding for aimless, liberal theses about resistance.
I also don t know what it means that nearly everyone left Standing Rock behind. Historical tellings of protests are shaped, in large part, by their aesthetic. The inconvenient narrative realities of Standing Rock the stranded protectors at camp, the failure of the much-lauded Veterans movement and the questions around the evacuation of the camp should all eventually be reduced down to a series of familiar, stirring images. We will only remember the tipis on the banks of the river, the warriors who chained themselves to the drills.
What s startling is that this process, which usually takes years, has already run its course. The speed of the reduction may have come, in large part, from how the greater public processes every Native American struggle through a filter of nostalgia, but it also seems to show just how quickly a movement can be co-opted in an era of replicating protest imagery. Every moment is now the property of anyone who can access it through their phone. Dissent can propagate quickly now, but it also means that every protest, however specific and physical in its conception, ultimately gets reduced down to a generic feeling. This is how a writer like Cobb can take Occupy, Standing Rock, and Black Lives Matter and stitch them all together into a prediction about the future of protest politics; it s how phrases like #NoDAPL, Black Lives Matter, and My body, my choice can be diluted down, so they mean the same thing. At that scale, all causes becomes interchangeable.
Long-shot lawsuits still making their way through the court system will decide the future of the pipeline. But the historic legacy of what happened at Standing Rock will have to be parceled out through small, personal victories. Those small victories were always difficult to claim at Standing Rock because the terms of the protests were absolute either the pipeline was built or it wasn t and I imagine that as people return to their homes or ship off to the next fight, they will have to find a more personal justification for the months they spent there.
Sean Sullivan, one of the vets who came in December, told me that while he believed the deployment had done more harm than good, he had been able to feel the blessings of sacred land and prayer, which helped him heal from his PTSD. He said there had been veterans who had been cut off from camp by the blizzard and had never been able to stand by a sacred fire, sit in a tipi and indulge in the healing properties of prayer. For Nancy, her time in North Dakota had accomplished what recovery and therapy could not and reminded her of the edifying responsibility of family. Whatever had me triggered in my past from trauma and the prejudice and the pain . Coming here has closed that gap, she said. It s just taught me so much now to keep going forward. The grandbabies were born at this time and I got life to live now.