JOIN US ON JUNE 8th: Refugee Advocates Plan Toy Pile of Shame for US Consulate in Toronto

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Refugee Advocates Plan Toy Pile of Shame for US Consulate in Toronto

Toronto, June 8 2018 —a group of concerned refugee advocates, lawyers, academics, health care providers, and others will be piling hundreds of children’s toys in front of the US Consulate in Toronto on June 8 2018 at 2 p.m. to protest a new US government policy of trying to stop migrants from crossing its borders by taking away their children.

Since October, US authorities have taken over 700 kids – including more than 100 babies and toddlers –from their detained parents and sent to facilities across the country. This number will likely soon skyrocket, since on May 7th this practice became the official policy of the US administration. With shelters at capacity, the administration is preparing to use military bases to house the hundreds of children per week that officials expect to seize.

“There are legal and ethical limits to how far a country can go to protect its borders,” says Hilary Evans Cameron, a lawyer and legal academic at the University of Toronto. She and her partner, Emmet O’Reilly, are organizing an event to bring Torontonians from all backgrounds to build a pile of children’s toys outside of the US Consulate. “Any human rights respecting country cannot shoot unauthorized border-crossers on sight. It cannot torture them. And it cannot take away their children. How could anyone who has a child, knows a child, or was a child, think otherwise?”

Veteran lawyers, reporters, and aid workers, some noting that this the "worst thing" that they have seen in their careers, describe what this policy looks like in practice. Children scream and cry and beg not to be taken from their parents. Experts confirm what laypeople might intuit: that these children may never recover. “They will be dealing with the psychological consequences for the rest of their lives,” says O’Reilly, a Nurse Practitioner who works with people with trauma histories. And parents can only watch, helpless, as their babies are loaded into vans. Some wait weeks or months to find out where their children have been taken. Some never do. In a mess of byzantine bureaucracy, parents have been deported without their children. As advocates explain, these people arrive home "with no idea of how to get their children back."

Meanwhile, the Canadian government deems America to be ‘safe’ for asylum seekers and uses this idea to turn people away from our border. Even as outrage grew last week about the new US policy, our immigration Minister sought to beef up an agreement that returns would-be refugee claimants to the US authorities on the premise that the US is a ‘safe’ country for asylum seekers.

On Friday, June 8 2018 at 2pm, Torontonians will build a towering toy pile of shame in front of the US Consulate to condemn this cruel policy. Each toy will represent a donation to the American Civil Liberties Union, which, in a pending court challenge, argues that taking migrant children away from their parents is illegal.

“But more to the point,” says event co-organizer O’Reilly, “How far have we come if we cannot recognize that it is wrong? The message behind this policy could not be clearer: Step across this line and we will hurt your children. We will hurt them so badly that they may never recover. And we will make you watch. The US administration is taking hostages, many of them still in diapers.”

All toys will be donated to shelters following the event.

 

AVAILABLE FOR COMMENT IN TORONTO

Hilary Evans Cameron, Visiting Associate, Centre for Ethics (can also do French interviews): hilaryevans.cameron@mail.utoronto.ca 

Emmet O’Reilly, Nurse Practitioner, South Riverdale Community Health Services; emmet.c.oreilly@gmail.com 

Petra Molnar, Research Associate, International Human Rights Program: petra.molnar@utoronto.ca 

Stephanie Silverman, Adjunct Professor, Trinity College: sj.silverman@gmail.com 

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