Category Archives: SANSAD Events

Public forum on immigrant/refugee detention


Surrey: Sanctuary City, not Detention City


Public Forum
March 4, 2018, 1.00 pm -4.00 Pm
Surrey Centre Library, Room 120
10350 University Drive, Surrey

Chelliah Premrajah, Harsha Walia, Mohammad Zaman
Moderator: Sejal Lal
Overture: hospitality in Vancouver: Patricia Gruben with Martin Gotfrit on mandolin
The Government of Canada has signed a contract with an engineering company to build a New Immigration Detention Centre in Surrey at 13130-76 Avenue as a part of its infrastructure development plan. It is expected to be completed by November 2018 to replace the current holding center at the Vancouver airport and minimize the practice of placing immigrants/refugees in prisons. The detention of refugees with common criminals, for which Canada is conspicuous in the world, has been condemned by the UNHRC.

While the government promises profits to businesses, jobs to workers and taxes to the city, we need to understand the significance of detaining “immigrants, “the word used to cover refugees, who generate public sympathy, in the context of the larger world. The issue of the treatment of refugees by national governments has become extremely urgent in a world that currently has 22 million refugees according to the UN. This number can only grow as wars and climate change—and climate change induced wars—drive more and more people desperately to seek safety and livelihood far from their burnt, bombed, and abandoned homes. We are all aware of the droughts, wars and genocides that have driven millions to flee from Africa, Syria, Myanmar, and Afghanistan
Governments across the world have responded to this by creating barriers and adopting coercive measures, often in response to anti-immigrant popular movements, as we see in the US, Europe, particularly Central and Eastern Europe, and India. However, against this right-wing populism there has been the resistance of people with generous hearts who have opened their homes and purses for the succor of fellow human beings and established cities of sanctuary. We have seen this Canada in response to the refugees from Syria.
We need to be a part of this ethical politics of hospitality and welcome rather than incarcerate refugees. We must resist the labelling of refugees as “immigrant” or “illegal immigrant” to rationalize repression and block the gates of compassion. Particularly in the city of Surrey which is proud of its diversity we should build a sanctuary city and not allow the construction of detention centers.

Premrajah Chelliah is a member of SANSAD and Amnesty International. He is a retired healthcare worker, a life-long activist in the labor movement and life-member and past president of Tamil Cultural Association of BC. He is Secretary of BC Seniors Shanti Nilayam and a member of the Outreach and Social Justice Committee of Gilmore Park United Church, which co-sponsored Guatemalan, Afghan, and Syrian refugees.
Martin Gotfrit is emeritus professor of music and former Dean of the School for Contemporary Arts at Simon Fraser University. He is activist in hospitality for refugees through Or Shalom Synagogue.
Patricia Gruben is professor in film studies at Simon Fraser University. She is a leader in hospitality for refugees in Vancouver.
Sejal Lal is a musician and activist in human rights, South Asian youth issues, and indigenous support. She is a member of SANSAD.
Harsha Walia is cofounder of migrant justice group, No One is Illegal. She is the author of award-winning book, Undoing Border imperialism and Project Coordinator at Downtown Eastside Women’s Center. For the pat two decades she has been involved in immigrant and refugee rights, including supporting migrant detainees and campaigning against immigrant detention, deaths in detention, children in detention, and arbitrary detention. She has co-authored numerous reports on migrant and refugee issues in Canada and presented at the United Nations on immigration detention in Canada.
Mohammad Zaman is an international development/resettlement specialist. He recently has written a number of articles on Rohingya refugees in papers in Bangladesh and Canada.

Organized by South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy (SANSAD),;

Book launch with David Barsamian

Panel: David Barsamian, Lindsay Brown, Annie Ross, Dionne Bunsha

Moderator: Samir Gandesha

Saturday, February 24, 2 pm – 4 pm
Harbor Centre Rm 7000
515 W Hastings Street, Vancouver
Global Discontents is a compelling new set of interviews with Noam Chomsky, who identifies the “dry kindling” of discontent around the world that could soon catch fire. In wide-ranging interviews with David Barsamian, his longtime interlocutor, Noam Chomsky asks us to consider “the world we are leaving to our grandchildren”: one imperiled by the escalation of climate change and the growing threat of nuclear war. If the current system is incapable of dealing with these crises, he argues, it’s up to us to radically change it. These ten interviews examine the latest developments around the globe: the devastation of Syria, the reach of state surveillance, growing anger over economic inequality, the place of religion in American political culture, and the bitterly contested 2016 U.S. presidential election. In accompanying personal reflections, Chomsky describes his own intellectual journey and the development of his uncompromising stance as America’s premier dissident intellectual.David Barsamian: One of America’s most tireless and wide-ranging investigative journalists, David Barsamian has altered the independent media landscape, both with his weekly radio show Alternative Radio—now in its 32th year—and his books with Noam Chomsky, Eqbal Ahmad, Howard Zinn, Tariq Ali, Richard Wolff, Arundhati Roy and Edward Said. His new book with Noam Chomsky is Global Discontents: Conversations on the Rising Threats to Democracy. He lectures on world affairs, imperialism, capitalism, propaganda, the media, the economic crisis and global rebellions.
David Barsamian is the winner of the Media Education Award, the ACLU’s Upton Sinclair Award for independent journalism, and the Cultural Freedom Fellowship from the Lannan Foundation. The Institute for Alternative Journalism named him one of its Top Ten Media Heroes. He is the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center. In 2017 the South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy presented him with their Lifetime Achievement Award. He has collaborated with the world-renowned Kronos Quartet in events in New York, London, Vienna, Boulder and elsewhere.
Barsamian was deported from India due to his work on Kashmir and other revolts. He is still barred from traveling to “the world’s largest democracy.”

Lindsay Brown is a Vancouver writer, designer and activist. Her book, Habitat 76, an illustrated history of Vancouver’s 1976 UN Habitat Conference on Human Settlements was published in 2017.

Dionne Bunsha is an award-winning author and journalist. She is the author of the acclaimed non-fiction book, Scarred: Experiments with Violence in Gujarat (Penguin India, 2006) about the aftermath of the communal violence in Gujarat. As a Senior Assistant Editor for Frontline magazine ( in Mumbai, India, she travelled extensively to report on human rights, social justice and environmental issues.  Dionne writes for The Guardian, The Hindu newspaper, the New Internationalist, Guernica, Toronto Star and The Tyee. Dionne was a Knight International Journalism Fellow at Stanford University in 2008-09. Currently, Dionne coordinates a project mapping indigenous knowledge for Lower Fraser First Nations and teaches communications at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.


Samir Gandesha is an Associate Professor in the Department of Humanities and Director of the Institute for the Humanities at Simon Fraser University. His recent books include  Reification and Spectacle: On the Timeliness of Western Marxism and Aesthetic Marx.

Annie Ross is an Indigenous (Maya) teacher and artist working along and with community in Canada. She teaches Environmental Ethics in First Nations Studies at Simon Fraser University.

Organized by South Asian Network for Secularism (SANSAD) and co-sponsored by the Institute for the Humanities, Simon Fraser University

Three films on partition of India

70th Anniversary of Partition Film Screening

SAFES and SANSAD present 3 films on Partition of India

Sunday October 8, 2017

12.00 PM – 5.00 PM

4955 SFU Centre for the Arts

149 West Hastings St, Vancouver

A THIN WALL,  dir. Mara Ahmed, 65 mins

A documentary about memory, reconciliation and the partition of India. Shot in Delhi, Lahore, and New York.

MILANGE BABA RATAN DE MELE TE, dir. Ajay Bhardwaj, 95 mins

A lyrical feature documentary focusing on the Dalit Sufis of Bhatinda that explores the continuities of local cultures and the crossings of religious identities in post-partition Punjab.

“It is a story of how love survived a Holocaust.” Arundhati Roy.

SKY BELOW, dir. Sara Singh, 75 mins

A poetic portrait of the borderlands of Pakistan and India in which the landscape of ruins of past civilizations and the rhythms of local life intersect to question the lines of national borders, while the interviews with those who lived through partition offer reflections on the bordering.

Ajay Bhardwaj will be present for      Q & A. There will be discussion following screening.

Admission is free.

Rally for Pluralist India

Rally for Pluralist India

Sunday, July 30, 5.00 PM

Surrey City Hall Plaza

13450 104 Avenue, Surrey, BC

There has been a systematic attack on the rich pluralist society and culture of India since Narendra Modi came to power with a Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) majority in 2014. A secular, democratic republic with guaranteed citizenship rights and constitutional protection of minorities is in the process of being converted to a fascist theocratic Hindu Rashtra, a state serving a majoritarian agenda that is identified with the “nation.” Institutions are subverted, education commandeered, dissent suppressed through violence and intimidation, and Dalits and minorities increasingly subjected to mob violence encouraged through impunity. A spate of recent lynchings of Dalits and Muslims has generated a resistance movement in India under the banner of “Not in My Name” that has held demonstrations across India as well as in London, Boston, and Toronto.

Progressive South Asians in the Vancouver area came together recently in Surrey to form “Indians Abroad for Pluralist India (IAPI)” to raise our voice in solidarity with the resistance in India. We invite everyone to join us for a rally at the Surrey City Hall plaza next to the Surrey Central Library on Sunday, July 30 at 5 pm.

For more information call Gurpreet Singh at 778 862 2454 or Parshottam Dosanjh at 604 512 8371.