Vicky Mochama: The voice of Metro News.
Vicky Mochama: Abdoul Abdi, Ebrahim Toure cases prove unjust rules trump compassion
Trudeau described Canada's immigration system as one “based on rules and principles but that it is also compassionate and reflects on individual case." If only that were true.
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At the beginning of February, Justin Trudeau spoke about Canada’s history of anti-Black racism.
During his January town-hall tour, the prime minister described Canada's immigration system as one “based on rules and principles but that it is also compassionate and reflects on individual case." If only that were true.
For the fifth year in a row, Ebrahim Toure remains in immigration detention. He is now Canada's longest-serving immigration detainee. He is a captive of the Canadian state, not for any crime, but because immigration officials believe that "he will not show up for his deportation, if they can ever arrange it."
As Robin Maynard writes in Policing Black Lives, "Though all incarceration is harmful, it is particularly jarring that this level of deprivation may be inflicted on human beings for ‘administrative’ purposes alone." Toure has long given up on staying; like government officials, he’s looking forward to his deportation to Gambia. The promise of Canada no longer holds any allure.
But those same officials have thwarted the process: for months, they claimed they were awaiting an interview with Gambian officials who could provide Toure with identity documents. That interview has not materialized; yet it’s the reason that a judge decided Toure should be moved out of a maximum-security jail and into the less-restrictive holding centre where he sits today. Rather than order his release, the quasi-judicial members of the immigration and refugee board have blamed him for his own detention, citing his lack of co-operation.
For a man who has committed no crime, any detention, no matter how low the security designation, amounts to unjust incarceration.
Jail and deportation have also been the state’s solutions in the case of Abdoul Abdi.
Placed in the child welfare system at the age of four, he proceeded, as so many do, to prison. The child-welfare-to-prison pipeline is well documented. But, despite Abdi’s having been taken into state care, no one associated with the state cared enough to make sure that he became a citizen. After serving time in prison, he now faces deportation to a country he does not know. Canada is all he has ever truly known.
Legislation allows Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale to intervene, but so far he has not. Abdi has a deportation hearing on March 7. We shall see then whether rules or compassion win the day. Thus far, it has been rules.
It is not a coincidence that both are Black. Abdoul Abdi has experienced the unfeeling embrace of the child-welfare, criminal-justice and immigration systems. Ebrahim Toure continues to withstand the carceral crush. All of these forces disproportionately harm Black communities. In origin and in ongoing intent, those particular systems have set out to break Black people.
These two cases, distinguished by their facts but connected by callousness, suffering and indignity, prove that rules are in abundance but compassionate, humane reflection is scarce.