Demonstrators urge Winnipeggers to write government for human rights


Demonstrators hold up signs of love and support for marginalized communities both here and in the U.S. at a rally on Feb.3. THE PROJECTOR/ Keila DePape

Donald Trump’s executive order to put a temporary travel ban on seven Muslim countries catalyzed a local rally outside the U.S Consulate in Winnipeg.

Frigid temperatures forced demonstrators to temporarily take matters inside. Lubna Hussain, who helped organize the rally, stepped in to remind everyone the protest would start outside shortly, and people in the crowd zipped up their coats to brave the biting cold.

About 100 people gathered outside the U.S. Consulate on Feb. 3 in solidarity with the communities threatened by the U.S. travel ban.

Among them was Zain Alsayed, 26, a Syrian refugee who arrived in Canada six months ago.

Jenny Hejun Wills, a critical race studies professor at the U of W, believes it’s important to
remember how immigration is connected to her history as a Korean-born adoptee to Canada.

“I hope the government of Canada finds a solution to stand against the Muslim travel ban, but I don’t know what (the protest) can do,” said Alsayed.

After a month full of protests against President Trump, Alsayed wonders if the efforts will make a tangible impact, but speakers at Winnipeg’s rally made sure their objectives were heard loud and clear.

“This is a call for action, a call to our MPs in Winnipeg, and to our Canadian government to stand up and denounce the Muslim travel ban,” said Hussain, 25.

Some demonstrators at the rally have already taken up the call.

Lisa Stephunk says she’s been writing to her local MP to pressure the federal government to abolish the Safe Third Country Agreement that requires asylum seekers to apply for refugee status in the first “safe” country they get to.

This means refugees are refused if they come to Canada from the U.S. land border.

“We need to speak out very clearly against the travel ban and not play nice with the fascist administration in the states,” said Stephunk, 37.

Stephunk was one of many demonstrators who brought children to the early afternoon rally.

“I want them to see people coming together in the street to talk about borders and racism,” said Stephunk.

The Winnipeg chapter of No One Is Illegal, an international network advocating in the interest of immigrants and refugees, organized the rally.

The rally brought together nine speakers from different knowledge backgrounds and indigenous perspectives.

Saif Baloch was one of those speakers, whose own background implicates him in the travel ban.

Baloch is an international student commissioner for the Canadian Federation of Students, a member of the University of Manitoba Student Action Network and a born Iranian, one of the countries under the travel ban.

Baloch stressed the need to “speak out against racist language,” referencing Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister’s recent comments in which he criticized indigenous night hunting.

While the travel ban was high on the rally’s agenda, demonstrators cited various reasons for coming out in support.

“In the U.S. people are being deported to places they have never been and cultures and languages that they don’t speak or know,” said Jenny Hejun Wills, 36, a Korean-born Canadian adoptee who came out in part to show solidarity with undocumented adoptees in the U.S.

“I’m hopeful that people from marginalized communities feel supported and loved today,” said Wills.