Francisco's family in Chile, including his four
children, are demanding answers and they are appealing to the Canadian
people for assistance. They have rejected the CBSA's claim that the
cause of Francisco's death is "undetermined." In a joint statement,
among other things Francisco's family stated: "No one from the federal
Canadian government, including the Canada Border Service Agency has
contacted us. We don't know of an autopsy and no results of
any tests or reason for his death have been given to us. All we
know is that his body lies in a hospital and that we must pay
nearly $10,000 to bring him home to give him a proper burial. Our
brother, our son's body has been in hospital for ten days already
and we are in pain every minute that passes. Behind all this
tragedy is a family and a mother who are grieving."
The family also wants the federal government to pay for the return of his body, and they want assurances that this will not happen to others. The family also notes that without knowing the exact cause of his death, Francisco's four children will not receive a single peso of his pension.
The case of Francisco Javier Romero Astorga brings to
fore the brutality, racism and lawlessness of the Canadian Border
Services Agency and the manner in which immigrants and refugees are
criminalized and mistreated, in complete violation of their basic
human rights. As part of the Anglo-American imperialist system of
states, Canada is involved internationally in exploiting the
resources of other nations and displacing their peoples such as
the Canadian mining monopolies are doing in Chile. Then when
people such as Francisco Astorga come to Canada seeking a new
beginning, they are criminalized. This is unjust and
Stand with the family of Francisco Javier Romero Astorga in their demand for justice! Demand that Canada respect its international obligations as concerns the treatment of refugees and immigrants, in particular those under custody!
(With files from Toronto Star, "'We Have No Rights': Arbitrary imprisonment and cruel treatment of migrants with mental health issues in Canada," International Human Rights Program at the University of Toronto, 2015)
Open Letter to Canadian Government
All we know is that his body lies in a hospital, and that we must pay nearly $10,000 to bring his body home to give him a proper burial. Our brother, our son's body has been in a hospital for ten days already, and we are in pain every minute that passes. Behind all this tragedy is a family and a mother who are grieving.
We are writing this open letter to the Canadian government and the Canadian people to request information and support. We want to know why our son, our brother died. We want to know what the Canadian government is doing to make sure this does not happen to anyone else again. We want the Canadian government to provide us the financial resources to return Francisco to us so that he can be laid to rest.
We know that the Canadian government has not provided any information to the Canadian people about Francisco. We want you to know who he was, so that you understand the loss and grief we are suffering.
Four months from now, Francisco would have turned forty years old. He is a father of four children, Ignacio 10, Hector 11, Aimy 12 and Camila 19. He is the eldest brother to Cecilia, Esteban, and Maria. Francisco's father, Esteban, is a man who holds strong family values and is dedicated to his family. He served in the military for 30 years. Francisco's mother, Cecilia, is a devoted mother, loves her children, and has always been a pillar of the family. His sister Maria teaches in kinesiology, loves to laugh and is devoted to her family, and his sister Cecilia is self-employed, and is a caring and hardworking person. His brother Esteban, who is very close to his siblings, works in Dubai. Esteban is married with an 18-month-old son, Maria is a mother to a 2-year-old daughter, and Cecilia is mother to a 5-year-old son.
As a young boy Francisco was a fighter. He always stood up for what was right. No matter what. He loved football and played it every day. As an adult, Francisco was a devoted son, a loving brother. His passion was music. He loved to draw. He was passionate about cooking and was an excellent chef. He was a dreamer who was always looking for ways to make the future brighter.
In the mid 1990s, Francisco went to Canada in search of work, so that he could make money to build a better life for himself. He worked in a bakery, and loved Canada. He was happy to be there. By 2002, he had saved up enough money to come back to Chile. He came home with music equipment and plans to open a dance club.
But Francisco was unable to get ahead back here in Chile. He had to sell his equipment, and work odd jobs. It was a difficult time for him and for the whole family, but we came together to support him. By 2015 he was ready to rebuild his life. Francisco wanted to go back to the place that he loved, Canada. He told us he wanted a 'new beginning'.
In October of 2015, Francisco travelled to Toronto. Some Chilean friends of ours in Canada helped Francisco find somewhere to stay until he found a permanent place to live. A generous and caring family took him in like he was their own son. We were so grateful and moved by their generosity. When we called one day in January to speak to Francisco, the family told us he had not returned home, that they did not know where he was, and were worried about him. We called the Chilean consulate and they informed us that Francisco had been arrested.
The next thing we heard was on Sunday, March 13, 2016 when we received a phone call from the Chilean Consulate informing us that Francisco was dead. In an email a few days later, a detective from the Halton Police Services informed us that the cause of death was "undetermined". We were told that this was no longer a criminal investigation, and so blood test results would be available by May of 2016.
When cause of death is "undetermined," the Chilean government does not release the pension that a person has collected. As a result, Francisco's children will not see a single peso of that money, and we have to bear the costs of transporting his body.
We are utterly in the dark. Francisco's mother is very ill, and her health has deteriorated rapidly because of this news and we have no answers to give her. Francisco left Chile in perfect health, he spent much of his most recent time in Canada in immigration detention custody and now he is dead. We need to know more, and we need the Canadian people's help in getting us answers.
There is nothing worse in the world than losing a child. What we want most is to have our son and brother returned to us, laughing and alive. Now that we know that he is not the first person to die in immigration detention, we want an investigation into his death to also tell the truth about what is happening in the Canadian immigration system. How can people be dying in government detention? It is inhuman what immigration detention is doing to people. Families like ours deserve answers. No one else must suffer like we are suffering.
(March 22, 2016. Photo: End Immigration Detention)
Since 2000, at least 14 immigrants have died in CBSA custody. 8 of the 14 deaths took place in Ontario provincial prisons. Most common cause of death is denial of adequate health care followed by suicide. CBSA has never publicly revealed details of all the deaths in its custody.
Over 7300 migrants were detained without charges or trial in 2013. Approximately, one-third of all detention happens in maximum security provincial facilities rented out by provincial governments to Canada Border Services Agency. 60 per cent of all detentions take place in Ontario. In 2013, migrant detainees spent a whopping total of 183,928 days (that's over 503 years) in immigration detention. Detentions cost over a quarter of a billion dollars over five years.
CBSA regularly imprisons children. At the same time, it does not report on imprisonment of children with Canadian citizenship insisting that they are 'accompanying' their parents.
Canada is one of the few western countries in the world without a time limit on detentions, thus some immigrants have been jailed for over 12 years without charges or trial. The United Nations has twice asked Canada to end this practice.
There is absolutely no system to determine under what circumstances some detainees are held in one of three federal immigration holding centres (Toronto, Laval and Vancouver) and the rest in provincial jails.
The decision to detain or release is made by civil servants, who are not legally trained, known as Board Members. Board Members release rates vary arbitrarily between 5 per cent and 38 per cent. Release rates also vary by region, 9 per cent in Ontario, and 26.5 per cent in the rest of Canada. There is no comprehensive judicial oversight of these decisions. An immigration detainee does not have an automatic right of appeal.
If convicted for a crime, immigrants unlike citizens are punished three times. First, for the crime itself. Second, by having their immigration status revoked or if it's in process, denied, and pushed into deportation. Third, by being jailed, in some cases indefinitely.
CBSA has been found to use international smugglers to get fake documents to deport migrants to countries they have no connections to, as in the case of Michael Mvogo. See full details here.
CBSA flies detainees to Kenya, and then pays bush-pilots US$25,000 in cash to transport those detainees to Somalia. See CBC investigation in the case of Saeed Jama here.
The purpose of detention is stated to be 'flight risk' or 'danger to the public.' There exist no criteria to make this designation, and no appeals process or access to courts to challenge it. Immigration detention is limited to undocumented residents -- who may be denied refugee claimants; migrants who overstayed their work, study or visit permits; or former permanent residents who had their status revoked. Contrary to popular perception, 94.2 percent of refugees are detained on grounds other than being an alleged security threat.
At least 8 of the known deaths have taken place in Ontario provincial prisons
1. Francisco Javier Romero Astorga (March 2016) Cause
death unknown (in Ontario provincial prison)
2. Melkioro Gahungu (March 2016) Suicide (in Ontario provincial prison)
3. Abdurahman Ibrahim Hassan (June 2015) 'Restrained by guards' (in Ontario provincial prison)
4. Joseph Dunn (September 2014) Suicide (in Ontario provincial prison)
5. Prince Maxamillion Akamai (April 2014) Denied adequate medical care (Toronto Immigration Holding Centre)
6. Unidentified man (March 2013) Cause of death unknown (in Ontario provincial prison)
7. Lucia Vega Jimenez (December 2013) Suicide (in Vancouver immigration holding centre)
8. Shawn Dwight Cole (December 2012) Denied adequate medical care (in Ontario provincial prison)
9. Unidentified man (August 2010) Cause of death unknown (in Laval immigration holding centre)
10. Kevon O'Brien-Phillip (January 2010) Beaten by fellow inmates (in Ontario provincial prison)
11. Jan Szamko (December 2009) Denied adequate medical care (in Toronto immigration holding centre)
12. Joseph Fernandes (January 2007) Denied adequate medical care (in Toronto immigration holding centre)
13. Sheik Kudrath (April 2000) Denied adequate medical care (in Ontario provincial prison)
14. Unidentified man ([date] unknown) Cause of death unknown ([location] unknown)
(March 22, 2016)
End Canada's Military Support to Philippine Government
On April 1, police forces on the island of Mindinao in
the Philippines opened fire on 6,000 farmers and Lumad Indigenous
people and their families, who were blocking the highway in Kidawapan
to protest the local government's refusal to provide emergency rice
rations and other relief needed to offset a food crisis triggered by
persistent drought caused by El Niño.
The International Coalition on Human Rights in the
Philippines (ICHRP) (Canada) has condemned the brutal military attack
on the peaceful protesters and is holding the Benigno Aquino III
government of the Philippines responsible for this act of state terror
against the people. The Coalition points out that it is the anti-social
policies of the Aquino government and the local governments that are
causing increasing impoverishment and the deterioration of the living
conditions for the people in Mindanao and across the Philippines.
More than 50 per cent of the Philippines' military personnel have been relocated to Mindanao as part of Operation Bayanihan, a so-called counter insurgency program. These troops are carrying out a campaign of political killings and mass expulsions of the Lumad, peasants and farmers in order to clear the way for mining and other resource extraction monopolies including a number of Canadian mining monopolies. To date close to 100 people have been killed including Lumad leaders and political activists who are organizing the people's resistance against the gross violation of their rights.
ICHRP (Canada) is also demanding that the Trudeau Liberals review their relations with the Aquino government and immediately terminate Canada's military assistance to the Philippine state. Since the signing of the Military Cooperation and Training Program (MTCP) with the Philippines in 1998, more than 200 military personnel from the Philippines have received specialized training by the Canadian military, including officer and "peace support operations training." The Coalition is also calling on the Liberal government to end the sale of military equipment to the Philippine government, such as helicopters, which are being used in military operations against the people.
TML Weekly calls on all peace and
justice-loving people in Canada and abroad to stand with the Lumad
people and the farmers and peasants in Mindanao and other regions of
the Philippines who are standing up to the violence and terror of the
Philippine state and demand an end to Canadian military relations with
the Aquino government.
(Photos: Kilab, J. Torres)
The International Coalition on Human Rights in the
Philippines (ICHRP) (Canada) condemns in the strongest terms the
violent police attack April 1st on peaceful protestors in Kidapawan,
The protesters, mainly peasants, Lumads and their
families, who are suffering from the effects of the drought caused by
El Niño, have been appealing to the government for food
assistance and the release of much needed calamity funds. Specifically,
are calling on the national and provincial governments to provide
15,000 bags of rice for 6 municipalities for the duration of the
drought, until farmers are able to recover.
As their appeals had been ignored, approximately 6,000 farmer and Lumad protestors occupied the Kidapawan highway on March 31 to draw attention to their demands. The following day, the police under orders from North Cotabato Governor, Emmylou Talino-Mendoza, conducted dispersal operations. Shots were fired at the protestors killing 3 and injuring some 116. Eighty-nine were arrested.
We hold the government of President Benigno Aquino III responsible for this crime. Government neglect forced the starving farmers and their families to conduct the protest actions in Kidapawan. The actions of the police are part of a wave of state-sanctioned attacks and a campaign of terror that the military, and paramilitary groups under its command, have been waging against the Lumad communities and peasants of Mindanao. Likewise, we hold Governor Emmylou Talino-Mendoza, responsible for the killing of 3 protestors and the violence committed during the police operations. We condemn the Governor for threatening to arrest United Methodist Church Bishop, Ciriaco Francisco for providing shelter to the farmers, Lumads and their families and for the police raid of the UMC Spottswood Mission Center where they were staying.
ICHRP (Canada) stands with the peasants and Lumad peoples in their struggle for economic and social justice. In solidarity, we demand that the Philippine government:
1) Provide rice and calamity support to the areas affected by the drought.
2) Conduct an immediate investigation of the massacre through an independent body.
3) End the harassment and intimidation of peasants and Lumad peoples, and pull out government troops and para-military groups from Lumad communities in Mindanao.
4) End the counterinsurgency program, Oplan Bayanihan, which victimizes innocent and unarmed civilians.
ICHRP-Canada calls on the Canadian government and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to:
1) Review Canada's relations with the government of President Aquino. Canada should not compromise its commitment to human rights by uncritically supporting this brutally repressive regime and perpetrator of heinous human rights violations.
2) Withdraw its support for and cooperation with the Philippine government's security agenda which provides justification for the counter-insurgency program, Operation Plan Bayanihan.
3) End all military support to the Philippine government, including the sale of military weapons and equipment and training for the military and police.
End Human Rights Violations!
Justice for the Peasants and Lumad of Mindanao!
Justice for the Victims of the Cotabato Massacre!
Coalition on Human
Rights in the
Philippines (ICHRP) is a global network of organizations outside
the Philippines who are concerned about human rights and
committed to work for a just and lasting peace in the
Thousands of Filipinos are taking part in protests and
demonstrations across the Philippines to demand the end of the U.S.
military presence on their island nation. They are protesting the
annual joint U.S-Philippines military exercises now under way, as well
as the scrapping of the 2014 Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement
(EDCA) that allows for the expansion of the U.S. military presence on
Some 10,000 American and
Philippine troops are involved
in the 11-day Balikatan (shoulder-to-shoulder) land and sea war
exercises which began on April 4. This is the 15th year that these
exercises have been undertaken against the will of the Philippine
people who have consistently called for their end. For the last three
years, Australia, which is part of the Anglo-American imperialist
system of states,
has also been involved. As well, the number of U.S. troops, ships and
planes has been increased in the Philippines in recent years as part of
the Obama administration's pivot to Asia aimed at challenging and
The heroic Philippine people have been affirming their
right to be against U.S. imperialism since the time the U.S. annexed
the Philippines in 1899 following the Spanish-American War. The U.S.
military was forced to shut down its bases and leave the Philippines in
1992 in the face of massive opposition by the Philippine people.
In recent years the sell-out Aquino government has caved to the demands of the U.S. to boost the number of U.S. forces in the Philippines under the pretext of the U.S.- led "global war on terror" as well as through militarizing emergency aid such as during Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 when the U.S. military used "typhoon relief" to establish a stronger foothold in the country. U.S. military officers are now "advising" the Philippine military in "counter-intelligence" operations -- a euphemism for suppressing the revolutionary forces of the New People's Army led by the Communist Party of the Philippines and other progressive and democratic forces, including Indigenous peoples fighting for their rights.
Despite widespread opposition, the Aquino government
signed the EDCA which enables the U.S. to build new military bases on
the islands if they serve both U.S. and Filipino troops as a way to get
around the people's opposition, as well as increase the time U.S.
troops can remain in the Philippines in each rotation. The EDCA extends
the much opposed Visiting Forces Agreement of 1999. Unions, church
groups, human rights organizations, women's groups and other political
forces in the Philippines have denounced the signing of the EDCA as an
affront to the dignity of the Philippine people and a violation of
their collective rights, recalling that the U.S. military in the
Philippines has a long history of committing crimes against the people
including rapes, thefts, physical assault and other abuses with
By their concerted political actions against the U.S. militarization of their homeland, the people of the Philippines are carrying out their duty to themselves and humanity to secure peace on their island homeland and in Asia and the world.
Get Canada Out of NATO! Dismantle NATO!
On April 4, Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and U.S. President Barack Obama met at the White House. The meeting coincided with the 67th anniversary of the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty commonly known as the Washington Treaty, upon which NATO was founded. Their meeting took place as the United States is stepping up the permanent rather than rotational deployment of its troops, equipment and bases in the countries of eastern Europe.
Trying to present the moves to militarize eastern Europe under U.S. domination as anything but aggressive, Obama noted that NATO continues to be the "cornerstone" of collective defence for the U.S. and Europe. "This is obviously a tumultuous time in the world. Europe is a focal point of a lot of these stresses and strains in the global security system," Obama said to justify the deployment of more U.S. troops.
For his part, Stoltenberg presented U.S.-NATO relations as based on fighting terrorism, to hide the terror the military alliance has carried out against the countries and peoples of the world, including Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and most recently Libya. U.S. imperialism now seeks to impose itself on Syria and once again Iraq and is increasingly using NATO to carry out this push. Stoltenberg stated, "Terrorism affects us all, from Brussels to San Bernardino," noting that all NATO Allies contribute to the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS and that NATO has just started training Iraqi officers "in partnership" with the coalition. Showing the role NATO plays as gendarme of the U.S., Stoltenberg stated that NATO's biggest operation has been its role in Afghanistan, which he claimed was in response to the 9/11 terrorist attack and that this shows the importance of Europe and North America standing together. The NATO Secretary General also thanked Obama for new permanent deployments of U.S. troops and equipment said to be to bolster NATO through the "European Reassurance Initiative."
Under the guise of defending Europe from an "assertive Russia," the U.S. is in the midst of a large buildup of troops and equipment and construction of new airfields in Europe. It involves the permanent placement of thousands more U.S. troops in the Baltic republics, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria as well as airfields for the rapid deployment of these and other troops. It is said this is a show of support for NATO but it also means the permanent placement of thousands of U.S. troops and additional equipment for use against the peoples of NATO member countries and those not members or allies of NATO.
The 2017 U.S. Defense Department budget includes funds to "support the deployment of between 3,000 and 5,000 troops and the forward placement of military equipment to NATO's eastern flank."
On March 30, the U.S. European Command (EUCOM) announced
that continuous U.S. Army presence in Europe will reach three brigades
-- one armoured, one airborne, one Stryker brigade -- by 2017, as well
as one pre-positioned set of combat-ready equipment sufficient to
support another armoured brigade combat team and "division-level
enablers," officials said. Reports say that for the past year, the U.S.
military has deployed "rotational units" in eastern Europe and used a
set of pre-positioned equipment -- known as the European Activity Set
-- which includes vehicles, weapons, communication equipment and other
essential supplies to outfit a combat brigade.
The new deployment will mean a permanent troop presence
targeted countries as well as the permanent placement, maintenance and
repair of equipment to be used in the event of "emergencies." Military Times reports that the
"rotational" troops at military installations in places such as Germany
and Italy will swap out "heel to toe," meaning there will be no
permanent garrison of U.S. forces like those in Germany and Italy but
troops would retain a constant presence on the ground in eastern
The rotations will "demonstrate the ability to rapidly deploy equipment and forces to Europe by sending U.S.-based rotational forces with their currently assigned equipment." Officials noted that this equipment will be the most modern the Army has to offer and over the next year will replace the current training equipment in Europe.
"This is a big step in enhancing the Army's rotational presence and increasing their combat equipment in Europe," said Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, EUCOM commander. "This Army implementation plan continues to demonstrate our strong and balanced approach to reassuring our NATO allies and partners in the wake of an aggressive Russia in Eastern Europe and elsewhere. This means our allies and partners will see more capability -- they will see a more frequent presence of an armoured brigade with more modernized equipment in their countries."
U.S. Air Force Europe Commander Gen. Frank Gorenc said that the U.S. government's increase of European Reassurance Initiative funds will enable NATO to strengthen its presence there. "This will allow us to do another aspect that I am keen on and that is continuing to develop the airfields, particularly on the Eastern side of NATO -- the Baltic Republics, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria." He noted that the airfields "will allow for an easier place to go, to accomplish high-volume, high-velocity operations."
In related news, on March 11, the North Atlantic Council (the decision-making body of NATO) announced that it has approved the nomination of General Curtis M. Scaparrotti, United States Army, to the post of Supreme Allied Commander Europe, replacing Breedlove. Scaparrotti is currently serving as Commander, United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command, United States Forces Korea.
An announcement from NATO informed that the "first group of officers from Iraq's national security forces started their NATO training course" at the for-profit U.S.-run training camp called the King Abdullah Special Operations Training Centre (KASOTC) in Amman, Jordan on April 2. Jordan's King Abdullah II visited NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium on March 17, where NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg praised the country's role "as an active member of NATO's Mediterranean Dialogue," which also includes Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia.
The training mission is reported to be part of a NATO Defence and Related Security Capacity Building Initiative first announced at the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Wales in September 2014. Countries targeted for "capacity-building" include Georgia, Jordan, Moldova, Tunisia, Iraq and Libya.
The Trudeau Liberal government announced on February 8 that Canadian troops will participate in "capacity-building" missions in Jordan and Lebanon. Media reports prior to the announcement stated that this would involve Canada joining a NATO "training mission" at "military camps" in Jordan, Turkey and "possibly Lebanon" but the government never disclosed that the "capacity-building" was under NATO/U.S. dictate. Since then no information has been released about Canadian troops in Jordan or Lebanon or their role in the training missions.
NATO says the program provides "specialised assistance in the areas where NATO can add the most value," including "advice on security sector reform, military training, explosive ordnance disposal, de-mining, cyber defence, civil emergency planning, civil-military planning, countering improvised explosive devices, military medicine and medical assistance." A NATO press release announced that the aggressive alliance "is ready to step up this work with other interested partners as well."
It is also part of establishing NATO command over the U.S.-led intervention in Iraq and Syria. Following the NATO defence ministers' meeting in February, U.S. Defence Secretary Ashton Carter announced that they are exploring the possibility of NATO joining the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL. NATO also agreed to provide surveillance aircraft to assist in bombing runs in Iraq and Syria.
1. The number of military
personnel in every U.S. Army brigade is about 4,200 people. A division
can be made up of anywhere between 10,000 and 20,000 soldiers. A
division is the U.S. Army's largest tactical organization that trains
and fights as a combined arms team. It is a self-sustaining force
capable of independent operations. The division is composed of varying
numbers and types of combat, combat support, and combat service support
units. The mix and types of combat units determine whether a division
is armoured, mechanized, infantry, light infantry, airborne, or air
2. The KASOTC facility in Amman began operations in 2009 and was paid for by the U.S. Defense Department and built by a U.S. construction firm supervised by the United States Army Corps of Engineers. Training at the base is overseen by ViaGlobal Group, a U.S. private military contractor, along with the Jordanian Armed Forces.
Its director is Frank Toney, a retired U.S. brigadier general and commander of the Army Special Forces. Toney in 2009 became senior advisor to Iraq's counterterrorism forces before spending three years working for DynCorp, another U.S. military contractor.
KASOTC is staffed by "ex-Army Rangers, Deltas and SEALs," the New York Times reports. In 2013, reports said that U.S. special forces and military planners were based at KASOTC under CIA leadership for training of Syrian "rebels." It also hosts an annual "Warrior Competition," with more than 30 international and local teams competing in counter-terrorism drills.
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