Published in Rabble.ca | January 20, 2012 | Circulation: 200,000 unique monthly readers
Last night, I had the incredible honour of spending several hours at the Surrey home of Karla Berenice García Ramírez – an award-winning journalist who fled to B.C. from Mexico four years ago after her whistle-blowing got her death threats. I met her husband, and played with her beautiful 17-month old daughter.
The 38-year old journalist described herself as a ‘grillo,’ a cricket – a Spanish term for someone who makes a noise about corruption or injustice.
Since 2002, she exposed corruption and kick-back payments within one of Mexico’s most prestigious government agencies – and was warned that if she continued, her body would be dumped in an abandoned lot – or worse, a member of her family’s.
This morning in Vancouver, García Ramírez held a press conference with her lawyer and migrant justice group No One Is Illegal – after being twice being turned down for refugee status, she is filing a humanitarian and compassionate appeal.
I wrote about her story today in an exclusive profile in The Vancouver Observer:
When she first received a death threat for exposing government corruption, award-winning journalist Karla Berenice García Ramírez’ first thought was to protect her family.
“‘How are are you, my queen?'” she recounts her assailant saying in 2003. “‘If you don’t stop writing about this, your body could end up being in an empty lot – or even worse, someone in your family.’
“I think it’s worse if you have daughters in your family. I’m not afraid if someone cuts my head off – I got a call in 2008, saying I would have my arms cut off. But my daughters…”
The 38-year old journalist and Vancouver radio broadcaster – who lives in Surrey with her husband César Casso and two small children – invited The Vancouver Observer into her home for an exclusive interview.
She recounted a harrowing tale of whistle-blowing, escape to safety – and now, the Canadian government’s push to deport her family. Now, she is fighting to stay on humanitarian and compassionate grounds – but will Canada listen?
Unfortunately for García Ramírez, her husband and two young children, the Canadian government allows very few Mexicans to claim refugee status. Mexico is, after all, one of this country’s major trading partners under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). As usual, goods flow freely; people cannot.
And despite nearly 50,000 people killed in an escalating drug war over the last few years alone, according to the New York Times, and numerous journalists murdered for their work, it sadly seems unlikely that our immigration system will let this brave journalist stay. She’s been rejected twice – on the grounds that Mexico is “safe,” and that she is not under threat by organized crime.
Surprisingly – considering his traditionally low-ranking cabinet position – Canada’s immigration minister Jason Kenney has been griping in the news an awful lot this year. One might wonder if he is, in fact, being groomed for some higher calling (say, next Prime Minister, perhaps?).
Kenney has released a ‘wanted’ list of alleged foreign war criminals hiding in Canada – even though none had been charged or investigated by any due process of law, and even the Canadian Border Services Agency warned against the move.
Kenney has revoked the citizenship of thousands of migrants he says gained their status by “fraud.” Never mind that our entire class-biased immigration system is considered fraudulent and racist by many.
Most recently, Kenney caused outrage when – out of the blue – he announced that women wearing a face covering (read: a minority of Muslim women) would not be allowed to become citizens of Canada, because they cannot take the citizenship oath wearing their veil.
With the exception of some of my own problematic vows to serve the Queen (which I made during my younger years in Scouts), I don’t recall ever earning my right to “citizenship” in Canada, especially not by declaring the Oath of Citizenship:
“I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II,Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.”
Karla spoke to me last night about her sleeplessness, her nightmares, and her fears for her family’s safety if she is returned to Mexico.
“I know this is traumatic,” she said. “I have no trust any more, but in the end I have to live my life.
“I’m still struggling. I don’t agree with injustice. I love life – I don’t want to be part of corruption and injustice. Powerful people are taking everything – the system is made to be corrupt, and the people just get crumbs. If you don’t want to be part of this, you’re pushed out.”
Powerful words. But will anyone in power hear them?