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Abdelkader Belaouni still in sanctuary...

January 20, 2008

Abdelkader Belaouni still in sanctuary...


By Stefan Christoff

Algerian refugee Abdelkader Belaouni has spent the past two years in sanctuary at St-Gabriel's Church in Pointe St-Charles. On Jan. 1, 2005, Belaouni took sanctuary in open defiance of a deportation ordered by Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

"I'm not hiding from Immigration Canada, but I want to tell them clearly, I will not be presenting myself for deportation," stated Belaouni in a public statement at the time.

Ever since, Abdelkader Belaouni, with the support of multiple community organizations and social justice groups, has been fighting a very public battle with Immigration Canada. It isn't the only battle he's faced in this lifetime. In 1996 he escaped a violent civil conflict in Algeria, which took an estimated 100,000 civilian lives. As a blind man, Belaouni made the journey to New York City, and while he never gained status there he did carve out an independent life selling telephone cards.

Following Sept. 11, 2001, Belaouni left New York out of the fear of systemic persecution against Arabs and Muslims, including mass deportations, disappearances and the fire-bombings of mosques. Immigration Canada didn't exercise sympathy or compassion in the case, instead issuing a deportation order for Belaouni three years after his arrival in Montreal.

Today, Belaouni remains in sanctuary, never having stepped foot outside St-Gabriel's Church in all the time he's been there. "After two years I remain here without status. It is tiring, it is depressing, I want freedom," he explains. "It is clear that the government is aware of my current suffering and my difficult history in Algeria; they must act now and regularize my status."

On Friday, Jan. 18, the Committee to Support Abdelkader Belaouni is holding a demonstration in Montreal to mark his two years in sanctuary, starting at 11 a.m. at Phillips Square, on Ste-Catherine and Place Phillips in downtown Montreal. For more info, visit www.soutienpourkader.net

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Abdelkader Belaouni

I was downtown on the 18th of january, having just enlisted in the canadian forces, enjoying some lunch at the mall when I begin to hear loud band music. At the time I never suspected the controversy that it foretold. Bursting into the food-court, about a hundred and fifty people, sporting signs of protest and a compliment of drums,trumpets and megaphones, are suddenly shoving a pamphlet in my face. On this pamphlet is picture of a middle aged man wearing shades. I had never seen him before and dismissed the group as just another bunch of left wing loons. 10 minutes later, having put up with their loud rhetoric, chants of "Status for kader!" my curiosity was piqued and my patience at an end. I read the pamphlet, questioned the crowd. I learned that a blind diabetic man was seeking status in canada, and was hiding out inside a church. I am generally unsympathetic to those branded illegals, I trust that immigration canada has done their job, and if they think this man has no right to be in our country then im sure they have a reason. but the passion with which these fanatics in front of me screamed for his freedom prompted me to question.

Abdelkader Belaouni is an amazing man I am told. A funny, smart, loving kind man. He is liked, even loved, in his community. and so, I follow these people out onto the streets. There I discover that I am not the only one to have been disturbed by this mob of privileged college students. they march directly down the middle of the road in downtown montreal, oblivious to the city around them. There they are escorted by a full compliment of police cars, I count over 8, each with two very frustrated looking police officers. The crowd cranks up the megaphones and begins to chant. "NO ONE IS ILLEGAL" this comes as a shock to me, that anyone legally living in this country could possible have such a viewpoint. I spoke with several demonstrators to clarify. They believe, it seems, that "absolutely" everyone should be aloud to come into this country if they wish. That these people, unchallenged, are entitled to all the rights that our forefathers fought to keep for canada. ( when i used the words "these people" i was Slammed by a crowed of very angry, yelling pissed of montrealers, and was labeled racist, nazi,fascist,redneck american, asshole, among other unpleasantries) and so for that crowd, so unwilling to listen. when I said "these people", I was referring to the billion poor,thieving, uneducated, sick, injured, people out there in the world, who, if left unchallenged, would pour into our country like a flood. every aspect of our society would be overrun, hospitals, schools, police ( although they already are hard pressed, what with needing to babysit this crowd). our way of life would end as we know it. I understand that many of those would be immigrants are friendly kind people, that under different circumstances I would perhaps love to spend a day with one of them. but the fact of the matter is, if we are to let every single person with an issue into our country, we would have no country.

Their well thought out response to my opinion was a very frank " F%$^ you"

It seems these people seek the fall of our great nation. The fall of all we have worked for. I am shocked to learn that these privileged young canadians are Anarchists and seek the fall of all order. They wish to see hard work go unrewarded and for those that contribute nothing to be granted the fruit of our labour. They believe that all the foreigners, regardless of their qualifications, are qualified to have everything and and anything they want in canada.

For my opinions they will brand me as hateful, and promoting their twisted concept of apartheid. That I think we are better than the rest of the world. I will set my beliefs strait now. I think that the world is like a poker game. all gain comes at someone else's loss, and you must play tough if you want to win. The people who lose are never happy about it, they will always feel cheated.

It is time for us to stop feeling shame and guilt at our successes. We should be proud of our great achievements, our quality of life! we should share with those who deserve, and by those who deserve I mean those who can help us with what they bring into our nation. Embrace what you have, our country earned it, and theirs should have to do the same.