Posted on January 24, 2018

Robyn Maynard: Do Black Migrants’ Lives Matter at the Border?

Charles Krupa, Associated Press, January 24, 2018

This month, a delegation of Black Lives Matter (BLM) Toronto members and lawyer Saron Gebresellassi visited the U.S.-Canada border at Lacolle, Que., with the goal of offering legal support for the mostly Haitian asylum-seekers at the crossing.

According to BLM’s social media, they witnessed “whole families being detained and denied their Charter right to speak to legal counsel.”

This mistreatment, of course, makes up only one small part of the broader injustice faced by migrants crossing from the United States into Canada. Indeed, many face increasingly virulent racism in Trump’s America, as well as arrest at the Canadian border.


According to the Canadian government, 2017 was a record year for intercepted crossings on land borders. But what is too frequently ignored in these discussions is that, in line with global trends, it is Black asylum claimants who are disproportionately being displaced, and subsequently arrested, detained, and fingerprinted at these unofficial crossing points. Because of this, it’s Black migrants who will, barring a major policy shift, likely be disproportionately subjected to mass deportations.

While sorted by nationality and not by race, numbers released by the Immigration and Refugee Board in November 2017 reveal that of 14,467 migrants who crossed the U.S.-Canada border irregularly by November 2017, 9,274 were from majority-Black countries — a rate of nearly 65 per cent.

The largest proportion of these were Haitians (6,304), followed by Nigerians (1,911), as well as Eritreans, Dijiboutians and others. {snip}

{snip} In 1911, at the same border where Black migrants have so recently lost life and limbs to frostbite, Black Oklahomans fleeing KKK violence in the United States crossed the border only to suffer abusive treatment by border agents and racism from political leaders and civilians alike. Nonetheless, they organized and fought against significant public and state hostility.

In the 1950s, Black communities protested discriminatory policies directed at Caribbean migrants, with some success. As late as the 1970s, as the Canadian government outwardly embraced state multiculturalism, nearly 1,500 Haitians, fleeing repression, imprisonment, or even death under the Canadian-supported dictatorships of “Papa Doc” and “Baby Doc” Duvalier, were targeted for mass deportation by the Canadian government. {snip}