Kader’s Three Years of Sanctuary in St-Gabriel’s Church

[Montréal] January 1, 2006 was the day Abdelkader Belaouni entered into a self-imposed sanctuary at St-Gabriel’s Church in the Pointe Saint-Charles neighbourhood of Montréal. On  January 6, I visited Kader on the second floor of the rectory where he has spent much of the last 1100 days to avoid deportation back to Algeria. The Government of Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) refused to accept him as a refugee and ordered his deportation.

Members from his community in Montréal considered the IRB’s decision to be discriminatory and decided to come to his aid by creating the Committee to Support Abdelkader Belaouni. They stipulated that the IRB’s decision, based on the fact that Kader did not have a family in Canada and did not have a job discriminated against him because of his blindness.

Kader says that the IRB left him in a “vicious circle” whereby he could not attain a job because he was without status in Canada and he could not get status because he was unemployed. Three months after arriving in Canada in March 2003, Kader registered with the job bank at Institut Nazareth et Louis-Braille to help him find work. “Every time they found found a job for me, I was unable to take it because I had no papers. I was not allowed to work,” he insisted. “Everyone told me that as soon as I had the papers, I should contact them because they’s like to hire me.”

As for him not having a family, Kader replies that his family here are his friends. “The guy cleaning my room right now, is my family. The girl who called earlier will bring my my supper. She is my friend. I find that I have a large circle of friends that are my family,” he says with a smile.

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When asked what he does to pass the time, Kader says that four months into his stay in St-Gabriel’s Church, he decided that his time here would be time to spend learning. Sanctuary would become his music school. He has a piano teacher and several musician friends who have helped him compose original music. He already has an album and is working on his second. He also excercises on his stationary bike and the purple Pilates ball you see in the photo.

Kader says that he might make the same decision today after three years if he had to choose again whether or not to go into sanctuary. But he’s glad that he doesn’t know the future. “If I knew I would still be here three years later, I might hae been afraid to move forward,” he says, adding that destiny brings with it many things. “It’s true that I’m enclosed in this church but I’ve become a musician. I host a radio show called Radio Sanctuary.

Although he wants to leave as soon as possible, Kader says, “I am will in the church. I miss nothing. What I denounce in the injustice. Other than that, there is little else I can do. Other than be patient.”

On January 17, more than one hundred of Kader’s ‘family’ came out to denounce the Canadian government’s refusal to grant Kader refugee status on humanitarian grounds, which would allow him to rejoin his community outside the walls that have kept him confined for over three years. The demonstrators walked through the streets of Pointe Saint Charles to remind those that may have forgotten, that Kader is indeed still confined after three years. The march was postponed to one week (as the poster indicates) because a large demonstration in support of Gaza was organized on January 10th.

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