Gurpreet Singh: We all need to stand up for a Pakistani student facing potential deportation

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      What could be more ironic than Zain Haq, a 21-year-old international student at Simon Fraser University, having to go into seclusion to avoid Canadian Border Services Agency agents in a country that claims to be human rights leader in the world?

      His fault is that he stood up for humanity, which is under constant danger due to the climate emergency. 

      Haq is one of the organizers of Save Old Growth, a peaceful civil-disobedience movement for climate justice.

      After being arrested a few times for being part of protests and being sentenced to two weeks in jail for criminal contempt of court after he violated an injunction against demonstrations at the site of controversial Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, border agents wanted him to present himself before them.

      After remaining inaccessible for a few days fearing arrest and deportation as he sought legal counsel, he finally surrendered even as his supporters are trying to find ways to let him stay.

      Haq is here on study permit. A native of Karachi, Pakistan, he apprehends further hardships if he is sent back in a much more intolerant political environment that is hostile to any such activism for change.

      It’s a shame that someone like him had to go underground in a country that pretends to be a saviour of refugees and that, too, for raising his voice for something that puts each one of us at risk.

      We don’t need to remind our government that it’s a global problem. Not only is Haq’s home country of Pakistan is facing severe drought and heat, Canada too is burning.

      Last year alone, we lost more than 600 human lives in B.C. due to a heat wave.

      What crime has Haq committed by joining a climate-justice action movement? If Canadian citizens can raise their voices without any fear of being uprooted or exiled for such a noble cause, why would Haq be seen differently?

      Decency demands that Haq should rather be treated with respect. He is our hero and history will prove him right.

      It’s up to Canada to do the right thing or miss this opportunity, only to earn disrepute.

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