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Fighting for access to education for undocumented migrants in Montreal

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On this week's episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Steve Baird. He is a member of the Education Across Borders collective, which has been fighting for the last several years in Montreal to win unimpeded access to basic education in Quebec for children without immigration status in Canada.

When it comes to mainstream conversation about migration and migrants, we live in a moment that even a few months ago would have been hard to imagine. The worst refugee crisis since the Second World War, a heartrending photograph of a dead refugee child that has shocked consciences and inspired actions around the world, and -- in the Canadian context -- a federal election in which the incumbent government's changes to the country's immigration regime have been extensive and appalling, have all combined to open up a considerable amount of space to talk about the issue. Mainstream conversations have included -- often shallowly but nonetheless genuinely -- some consideration of the harsh circumstances that prompt refugees and many other migrants to leave their homes, the West's role in creating those circumstances, the sorts of hardships that many migrants from countries of the Global South are forced to undergo, and what our obligations might be in this situation. There has even been some significant push back against government attempts to claim that the vastly inadequate Canadian state response to the current refugee crisis has somehow been generous.

Despite all of this, what has so far been lacking in mainstream conversation is a thorough reckoning with the totality of the violence that is built into the Canadian immigration regime. Though there are groups attempting to draw attention to this deeply troubling whole -- and I would encourage listeners to check out neverhome.ca for an excellent website with very solid information and analysis -- today's show focuses more narrowly on a group fighting just one of the many, many ways that the lives of migrants to Canada are organized into suffering and harm by the Canadian state.

The Education Across Borders collective is part of the broader Solidarity Across Borders migrant justice network in Montreal. In Quebec, as in many other provinces in Canada, but in contrast with most European countries and the United States, the government puts significant barriers in the way of the children of undocumented migrants -- migrants who do not have immigration status in Canada -- from going to school. Quebec school boards demand extensive documentation from people to prove their status, and even this can be a huge barrier to folks who are concerned about deportation. And from people who do not have status, they then demand payments of thousands of dollars per child before they will allow the children to attend school -- thousands of dollars that many refugees and other migrants simply don't have. Education Across Borders has been working for several years both to support individual migrant families in getting access to schooling for their kids, and to bring public pressure to bear on the Quebec government to give undocumented children access to basic education. Steve Baird speaks with me about the barriers placed in the way of undocumented children, and the work that Education Across Borders has been doing to challenge those barriers.

To learn more about Education Across Borders (in either English or French), click here.

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show in general, visit its website here. You can learn about suggesting topics for future shows here.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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