Hundreds rally in support of migrants outside Olympic Stadium
Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Hundreds of advocates turned up outside the Olympic Stadium on Sunday to express their support for the hundreds of people seeking asylum who have been given shelter in the Big O. 

Solidarity Across Borders and several other organizations were behind the “Welcome to Refugees” gathering.

"Today is a welcome refugees and migrants demonstration," said SAB spokesperson Jaggi Singh. "We think it's important to show a message of solidarity and support with those migrants."

Calling for an end to closed borders and for a regularization process for undocumented immigrants living in Canada, Singh said he opposes the idea that welcoming the migrants takes resources away from homeless or needy Montrealers, saying such arguments have been put forth by those opposing the presence of the migrants on racial grounds.

"You don't fight precarity and poverty in society by blaming other people who are precarious," he said. "You build solidarity and that's what we're trying to do."

Among those present was Sid Ahmed Tfeil who crossed into Canada irregularly in January. Tfeil fled his native Mauritania for New York City six years ago and said he came to Canada due to increases in racial tensions following the election of President Donald Trump. 

"I want all refugees to have the same chance and the same welcome to rebuild their lives," he said. "That's why I'm here, to support these people."

Tfeil, who worked as a journalist in Mauritania and with humanitarian organizations in the United States, said he has been given refugee status since coming to Canada and is now awaiting a work permit to begin rebuilding his career. He also hopes to bring his son, who he has not seen since leaving his native country, to Canada.

Marlihan Lopez, who once lived in Canada with no documentation, said she understands what the people inside the stadium have gone through.

"I'm feeling happy to see people come out in solidarity," she said. "We're in a time where there's a lot of intolerance, racism and hate speech going around. It's important for us to stand up and be in solidarity with those who have been in difficult situations."

Lopez, who has lived in Montreal for two years, said she isn't satisfied with efforts to help migrants, despite rhetoric from politicians claiming that Canada is a refuge for the oppressed. 

"There's people without access to healthcare, without access to education, kids who don't have documentation who can't access the school system," she said. "We need to start being honest instead of talking and have concrete actions that can address these injustices."

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Source: The Canadian Press / CTV News

Photo: A man holds up a baby during a rally in support of asylum seekers outside the Olympic Stadium in Montreal. The stadium is now being used as a temporary shelter for some of the hundreds of asylum claimants pouring across the New York-Quebec border every day. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)