By Gilberto Rogel
Toronto.- Over a hundred community activists, political leaders, artists and the public of many Latin American countries and Canada, joined together this Saturday June 7 at a solidarity night to express their full support to the cause of the Salvadoran journalist Oscar Vigil, who is fighting, perhaps, the strongest and most complicated personal battle to stay in Canada and show the Federal Government its error in declaring him an inadmissible person living in the country.
“I am here to support the cause of Oscar. We need to let our authorities (Immigration) know that it is not possible that a hardworking man and father like Oscar can be treated as a terrorist. The authorities should not believe he was doing anything other than his job, because I am one who believes that the family must stay together if we want a better society,” said Jose Toribio, poet and activist member of the Dominican Republican community, who, with over 20 years living in Canada, cannot understand the decision of the Immigration authorities.
Together with Jose Toribio, many well-known politicians also showed up to confirm their commitment to the cause. Andrew Cash, Member of the Parliament for the New Democratic Party (NDP) representing the riding of Davenport (Toronto), was one of the first to arrive at Mingles Lounge, the place of celebration.
In his speech, the Federal representative called as “outrageous” and “unfair” the decision against Oscar Vigil adopted by the Conservative government, its leader Stephen Harper, and particularly the Minister of Immigration Chris Alexander, who is not paying attention to the request of hundreds of citizen’s petitions asking to reverse Oscar’s order of deportation.
In a short interview with us, Andrew Cash ratified his support to the cause of Oscar, emphasizing “this is not only the struggle of Oscar Vigil. It is a struggle for justice and human rights of many others who have been declared inadmissible to remain in Canada.” The federal politician took advantage of this opportunity to emphasize that Oscar’s case is a clear sign that people must fight to democratize the Canadian immigration system, which in recent years has clearly been politicized by the government in Ottawa.
Beside the speeches, music, drinks, and Salvadoran and Latin-American typical food, the participants one by one agreed that the Oscar’s cause should be reconsidered by the Immigration authorities, as noted by the community activist Alejandra Bravo: “At this time in Canada anyone can be named as a terrorist, just by his or her political past. We have to win this case, and why? Because the future of refugees is part of our democracy.”
”Oscar’s case is a symbol of that situation, he is a devoted husband, father of three, a community leader and partner in many causes, and he has made many contributions to the Canadian society. So if he in this situation, what will happen with other people who do not have the same background? Therefore my message is that we’ll win this campaign not only for Oscar, but also for those people who deserve being refugees in this country”, replied Alejandra, who was born in Chile but raised and living on the St. Clair West area, one of the most predominant Latin American areas in Toronto.
The night moved forward with more music and speeches, together with Loly Rico and Francisco Rico, co-directors of FCJ Refugee Centre, who sold tickets for a surprise raffle. At the same time Robert Graham, a Canadian singer, composer and political activist, took the stage. “You are very welcome” was an emotional song that Robert dedicated to Oscar. “This song was originally written to another Salvadoran, Jose Figueroa, who is experiencing a legal situation similar to Oscar’s”, said Graham, who remembered his past years as a person fully committed with the Central America cause.
With the music in the background, we grabbed the honourable Oscar Mauricio Duarte, Salvadoran Ambassador in Ottawa, for a short interview. In his role as a representative of a government led by a leftist party (FMLN), which for the second time in a row won the democratic election, the ambassador expressed many of his opinions with soft diplomacy; however he was clear that he hopes that Oscar’s case will be solved with a positive outcome.
”Oscar knows that as a Salvadoran I fully support him, as well he understands that as a government we continue to support him in this campaign; although I want to be clear that we are very respectful of the Canadian process and procedures. We are respectful of Canadian laws and their internal decisions, therefore we cannot participate in that”, said the Salvadoran representative, who travelled from Ottawa just to be at Oscar Vigil’s solidarity event.
Oscar Duarte would not leave the event without expressing that as a Salvadoran Ambassador he “expects a positive answer to Oscar Vigil, which will benefit him, allowing him to fully integrate into Canadian Society and strengthen his family, as has happened with hundreds of Salvadoran families who live and work in this country.”
The evening was coming to a close when Oscar expressed his gratitude with everyone who assisted with the event, saying that this campaign is not just for him, but for many others who are in the same legal situation. He invited everybody to be involved in the campaign, signing the petition that is online at www.vigilcampaign.ca.
Before the official closing of the fundraising night, the Dominican Republican poet Jose Toribio read a brave and inspirational poem called “Indifference”, which synthesized the main core of this event: We must fight, not only for Oscar, but rather for the defense of human rights, justice, and freedom, which are the fundamentals of Canadian society.