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More than 1,000 people sign petition to try to stop deportation of climate activist Zain Haq

Zain Haq
Peaceful civil disobedience activist Zain Haq may be expelled from Canada. Photo by Extinction Rebellion.

Deceased Vancouver activist Sid Chow Tan liked to say “my art is activism”.

By that standard, some might see Zain Haq as an artist. That’s because the SFU international student from Karachi has employed many creative tactics fighting the climate crisis.

For example, in 2021, Haq and some friends secured a promise from the university to divest from all fossil fuels. They achieved this through a one-day hunger strike.

In addition, Haq has participated in road blockades, suspended himself in a tree, and engaged in other acts peaceful civil disobedience.

Last year, a B.C. Supreme Court justice jailed him for criminal contempt for violating a court injunction concerning the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion project.

Now, the federal government wants to deport Haq. And that’s upset more than 1,000 people who’ve signed an online petition. They’re calling on Citizenship, Immigration and Refugees Minister Sean Fraser and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to “suspend and revoke these proceedings”.

This news report reveals the devastating toll of a 2015 heat wave on Karachi.

Activist experienced climate crisis in Pakistan

In 2015, Haq lived through a heat wave in Karachi that killed about 2,000 Pakistanis. In some parts of the country, temperatures reached 49° C.

“Zain grew up in Pakistan, a country where millions of people have recently been displaced by floods because of glacial melting, and are facing ongoing crises of hunger, health care, and housing,” the petition states.

“Deportation is an undue punishment for someone who has no arrest record other than being engaged in nonviolent civil disobedience to raise awareness for the urgent climate emergency,” it continues. “Furthermore, the attempt to paint a 21-year-old, nonviolent university student as a risk to public safety, and bar him from completing his education, is obviously racist and Islamophobic.”

KAIROS Canada has also called on the federal government to halt the deportation.

Nirmal Singh Gill by Gurpreet Singh
Nirmal Singh Gill’s photo is in the seniors centre at the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara. Photo by Gurpreet Singh.

Activists will commemorate gurdwara caretaker

Haq’s predicament is not the only issue on the minds of racial-justice activists at the start of 2023.

At 11 a.m. on Saturday (January 7), antiracists will gather at the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara (7050 120th Street, Surrey) to mark the 25th year since the killing of Nirmal Singh Gill. He was the 65-year-old caretaker of the temple when he was attacked by white supremacists on January 4, 1998.

According to the judge in the case, William Stewart, Gill died “simply because he was Indo Canadian”.

Five men pleaded guilty to manslaughter and received prison terms between 12 and 15 years. Stewart described the killers as “moronic braggarts” who were racially motivated.

Last year, antiracist activists unveiled a portrait of Gill in the gurdwara’s seniors centre.

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Charlie Smith

Charlie Smith

Pancouver editor Charlie Smith has worked as a Vancouver journalist in print, radio, and television for more than three decades.

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We would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. With this acknowledgement, we thank the Indigenous peoples who still live on and care for this land.