Protesters at U.S. immigration detention rally say Canada shares blame

Hundreds turned out in Ottawa Saturday to protest the detention of immigrant families in the United States who have been crossing the country's southern border — but also to bring attention to the fact Canada isn't blameless.

Saturday's rally in Ottawa one of hundreds across Canada and the U.S.

A person holds a sign comparing the separation of children in the U.S. under the government's 'zero-tolerance' immigration policy to the separation of Indigenous children from their parents in Canada. (Kimberley Molina/CBC)

Hundreds turned out in Ottawa Saturday to protest the detention of immigrant families in the United States who have been crossing the country's southern border — but also to bring attention to the fact Canada isn't blameless, either.

The protest was one of more than 700 Families Belong Together rallies that took place across the U.S. and Canada, in cities that included Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Vancouver and Edmonton. 

Protesters marched from the Human Rights Monument to the U.S. Embassy, denouncing the United States's immigration detention policy while also demanding an end to the separation of migrant children from their parents. 

"Enough is enough. Enough of the racism, enough of these divisive policies. I mean, how far are people going to let it go? This is no longer a political issue, this is a human rights issue," said Sam McDargh, an American citizen who immigrated to Canada a decade ago.

"To have their children ripped away and then locked into detention camps, for exercising their right without due process, is outrageous. And it must stop."

Sam McDargh holds an upside down American flag attached to a hockey stick during a rally in Ottawa against U.S. immigration policies on June 30, 2018. (Kimberley Molina/CBC)

Children still in custody

Early this month, the Trump administration faced international pressure to end the separation of parents and children under its "zero tolerance" policy, which President Donald Trump reversed last week. 

The government said Friday that it will not separate families but rather detain families together during immigration proceedings, which can sometimes take months or years to resolve.

There are still more than 2,000 children, however, in the custody of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It remains unclear as to when they'll be reunited with their parents.

McDargh compared Saturday's protests with those during the civil rights movement and said she was prepared to keep fighting until changes are made.

"Sooner or later, they will hear the voice of the people. Or the people will remove them from office and put in people who are listening."

Hundreds of protesters marched from the Human Rights Monument to the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa on June 30, 2018, to protest the separation of families in both the United States and Canada. (Kimberley Molina/CBC)

Canada not perfect

Protester Aimee Beboso said Canada is far from perfect, however, when it comes to making its own immigrants feel welcome.

"It's double speak. You recognize the contributions of migrants but then at the same time, you make them feel unwelcome," she said.

"We have to be honest and cognizant that, in Canada too, we also practice [the] deportation of migrants and refugees that are unlawful."

Beboso's family immigrated from the Philippines in 1993 when she was 13. She said she's felt welcomed by some people, but has also experienced racism.

She also said her mother's former teaching career stagnated because Canada didn't recognize her foreign university education.

"My parents bring me here, we're educated here, we contribute to this economy, we pay taxes, we're good citizens, we vote," she said. "And yet there [are] policies that are also in place that make us not welcome."

Colleen Cardinal attended a rally in Ottawa on June 30, 2018, against the U.S. detention of immigrant families at its southern border. A Sixties Scoop survivor, Cardinal says Canada has also separated children from their families. (Martin Weaver/CBC)

Remember the Sixties Scoop

Colleen Cardinal also said Canada shouldn't be let off the hook.

A survivor of the Sixties Scoop, Cardinal was born in Alberta but grew up in Ontario.

She said there are similarities between that policy and what the United States government is doing at its Mexico border — with the big difference being Canada's removal of Indigenous children from their homes happened decades ago, behind closed doors.

"If you could take 22,000 children and put them in cages, that's what it would look like in Canada," Cardinal said.

"Instead we call those foster homes and we call them residential schools."

Thomas Walker and his daughter Audrey Gapp, 5, attended the rally. 'We talk to [the children] about voting, we talk to them about what’s going on in the world. So, bringing them along makes sense. It’s a protest about families.' (Kimberley Molina/CBC)

With files from the Associated Press