Stop the deportation of Wendy Maxwell
Rabble.ca March 8, 2005
On Saturday, March 5, at the end of a diverse and lively International Women's
Day march, Toronto police came on to the Ryerson University campus and arrested
Wendy Maxwell, a well-respected feminist and queer activist. At the time Wendy
was selling cookies at the IWD fair to raise funds for CKLN, a local community
radio station. She is currently being held at the Vanier Women's detention
Wendy has been fighting the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration for
status in Canada since she arrived from Costa Rica in July, 1997. Her application
for refugee status was turned down in early 2004 and she has been living underground
ever since. Despite the risks, Wendy never stopped her activism on behalf
of others. She has been a volunteer with the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre,
the Latin American Coalition to End Violence against Women, the Barbara Schlifer
Clinic and the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention as well as CKLN.
Born in Costa Rica, Wendy is a woman of Jamaican descent who fled to Canada
to escape the gender persecution she faced as a black queer activist in her
country of birth.
Toronto feminist and community activists are mobilizing to stop her deportation.
Wendy has a strong case for humanitarian and compassionate grounds but because
of a Kafkaesque provision of the Immigration Act, she can be deported while
awaiting a hearing on humanitarian grounds.
“What happened to Wendy is not an isolated incident,” said Jean McDonald
of the Don't Ask Don't Tell Coalition. “Police use municipal funds to do the
dirty work of Immigration Canada forcing the 200,000 non-status people living
and working in Canada to live in daily fear of detention and deportation.”
Another issue that has emerged is the reason for the decision of the Toronto
police for executing the arrest warrant. The police have discretion about
whether to arrest undocumented workers. Usually immigration authorities do
this. Clearly Wendy was no danger to anyone. Some people are asking questions
as to whether the arrest has to do with the fact that the police are angry
with CKLN for their show Bad Cop, No Donut! that has been critical of the
Speaking at a press conference on Monday, March 4, Giselle Orland of the
Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres pointed out that Wendy's predicament
is similar to hundreds of women with no status. “Wendy left her children behind
in Costa Rica because she was fleeing persecution. She has been separated
from her children for ten years.” Giselle was particularly outraged that the
police chose an International Women's Day event to make the arrest.
Late yesterday, in Ottawa, New Democratic Party Leader Jack Layton presented
his request to Immigration Minister Joe Volpe asking him to intervene in Wendy's
case. “As her Humanitarian and Compassionate Leave application is still pending,”
Layton wrote, “we are requesting that you intervene and either process the
application immediately or issue a temporary resident permit in order to
prevent the deportation until the humanitarian application is processed.
“Wendy Maxwell has made important contributions to the community during
her many years in Canada. She is actively involved in AIDS prevention work,
labour rights efforts and other community initiatives. She has made efforts
to improve the lives of others in Canada and merits, in my view, your very
serious and immediate attention and consideration. On compassionate grounds,
I do hope that your can intervene in this file.”
Today, March 8, there will be a demonstration gathering at noon at Ryerson
University, where Wendy was arrested. People are being asked to send emails
to Volpe — Minister@cic.gc.ca — to demand that he use his discretion to stop
her deportation, at least until her hearing on humanitarian and compassionate
If ever there was a person who deserves to immigrate to Canada, it is Wendy
Maxwell. She has already contributed more to her community than most. Take
a moment and help make sure that Wendy Maxwell stays in Canada to continue
her excellent work.
Judy Rebick is the publisher of rabble.ca.
She holds the Sam Gindin Chair in Social Justice and Democracy at Ryerson
University in Toronto. She is the author of the recently published
Ten Thousand Roses: The Making of a Feminist Revolution
. This article first appeared on the rabble.ca website at