Category Archives: Forum

The SANSAD Forum is a space for the discussion of issues of urgent concern to members and friends of SANSAD. Its goal is to develop understanding, solidarity, and direction for change. People are welcome to propose issues that concern them, explaining their urgency if necessary, and focusing them into questions as much as possible. Both questions and responses will be published on the site at the discretion of the moderator. People who raise questions are advised to request particular individuals whose response they consider valuable by email. Comments can be posted directly on the site.

Published opinions are solely the responsibility of the authors and may not be attributed to SANSAD.

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),;

Trump, Modi, and the Rise of Right-Wing Populism


Hari Sharma Memorial Lecture 2017

Trump, Modi and the Rise of Right-Wing Populism

David Barsamian

September 8, 2017

6.30 PM -8. 30 PM

Room 1800 SFU Harbor Centre

515 West Hastings Street, Vancouver

Despite the vast differences in the trajectories of their rise to power Donald Trump and Narendra Modi share some significant similarities. They both speak to and in the name of a “people” they identify with the nation, promise economic transformation addressing the grievances of the middle class in one case and the aspirations of the upwardly mobile in the other, and unify and radicalize their base by scapegoating immigrants and Muslims in the US and Muslims and Christians in India.

While both Trump and Modi attack the traditions and institutions of liberal democracy, Trump has empowered the forces of racism and white supremacy and Modi has supercharged the forces of Hindu nationalism with deadly effect.

Appealing to the Indian people with the promise of prosperity through neoliberal development and a Hindu revivalist state, the Modi government has unleashed violence against all who stand in the way of its agenda The nation is the battle cry: the military and the cow are the holy of holies, in the name of which people can be killed and criticism silenced.

David Barsamian is a tireless and wide-ranging investigative journalists who 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 forthcoming books are with Noam Chomsky and Arundhati Roy. He lectures on world affairs, imperialism, capitalism, propaganda, the media, the economic crisis and global rebellions.

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. He was deported from India on account of his work on Kashmir and other revolts and is still barred from traveling there.

This is a free event but RSVP required:  Chin Banerjee,; Harinder  Mahil,


Bilkis Yakub Rasool’s Statement to the Press

All Accused in Bilkis Bano Case, Including Police Officers Finally Convicted


Sets Aside Acquittals of 7 Gujarat Cops & Doctors Convicts them of Evidence Tampering & Cover Up

 Mumbai, May 4, 2017

 Through all of you, friends in the media, I wish to say to all my fellow Indian citizens, my fellow Gujaratis, my fellow Muslims, and to women everywhere – I am grateful that this verdict delivered by the Honorable Judges, has, yet again, vindicated my truth, and upheld my faith in the judiciary.

 My rights, as a human being, as a citizen, woman, and mother were violated in the most brutal manner,  but I have trusted in the democratic institutions of our country. Now, my family and I feel we can begin to lead our lives again, free of fear.

 I am happy that the State and its officials who emboldened, encouraged, and protected the criminals who destroyed the life of an entire community, are no longer unblemished, but today stand convicted of tampering with evidence and cover up. For officers of the state, whose sworn duty it is to protect citizens and enable justice, this should be their great moral shame, to bear forever.

 To fellow Indians, I appeal to all of you, at a time when we hear news everyday of people being attacked and killed because of their religion or community – please help affirm their faith in the secular values of our country and support their struggles for justice, equality, and dignity. For this verdict does not mean the end of hatred but it does mean that somewhere, somehow justice can prevail. This has been an long, seemingly never ending struggle for me, but when you are on the side of truth, you will be heard, and justice will be yours in the end. 

The close friends, who have stood with me through it all, know how much me, my husband Yakub and my family owe to them for their instinting support and love throughout this battle. For journeys like mine cannot be made alone. I am deeply grateful both to the CBI and to my lawyer who represented me during this appeal process in the Honorable Bombay High Court.

Silencing human rights defenders in India

SANSAD News Release, December 30, 2016

Condemn the silencing of human rights defenders in India

SANSAD condemns the arrest and incarceration of the seven-member fact finding mission of the Telengana Democratic Forum on December 26 in Chhatisgarh, India, on the false charge of carrying Maoist literature and the charge by the Bastar police against human rights lawyer, Shalini Gera on December 28 of exchanging demonetized notes for the Maoists.

The fact-finding mission of Telengana Democratic Forum, comprising high court advocates, research scholars, and journalists, who had set out to investigate the killing of a thirteen-year old Adivasi child by the Chhatisgarh police, was arrested by the Telengana police on December 25 and handed over to the Chhaitsgarh police on December 26. They were then arrested by the Chhatisgarh police under the draconian Chhatisgarh Special Public Security Act on the false charge of carrying recently demonetized currency and Maoist literature and jailed on judicial remand. People’s Union for Civil Liberties has called this arrest, “illegal, unprovoked, and malicious.”
Shalini Gera, a human rights lawyer belonging to the Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group that had been set up to provide the only legal aid available to the hundreds of Adivasis incarcerated in Chhatisgarh jails for years without trial, falsely charged,  or even without charges, had been forced to leave the area earlier this year when the legal aid group was driven by harassment, intimidation and evicgtion to close their office in Jagdalpur. The current charges were laid following Gera’s attempt to oversee the postmortem of Somaru Pottam, an Adivasi who had been killed in a fake “encounter” by the police.

These arrests and the patently false charges are a part of the established pattern of state terror in Chhatisgarh, where the state’s counter-insurgency measures in defense of extractive rights of corporations against Adivasi resistance have established a regime of impunity. Under this regime labelling someone “Maoist” is a license of kill and any attempt to bring this violence to light is  criminalized as aiding Maoists.

SANSAD, an organization of the South Asian diaspora in Canada, strongly condemns these arrests and the entire policy of state repression of which they are part. We demand that the charges against the Telengana Democratic Forum fact finding mission and Shalini Gera be immediately dropped and that an independent investigative commission be formed with the mandate of bringing to justice the people responsible for this abuse of law and justice.
Board of Directors, South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy (SANSAD)

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