Harsha Walia in 2013
|Alma mater||University of British Columbia|
|Occupation||Activist, writer, popular educator|
Harsha Walia is a South Asian activist and writer based in Vancouver, unceded Coast Salish territories, British Columbia, Canada. She is known for her organizing work with No One Is Illegal, the February 14th Women's Memorial March Committee, the Downtown Eastside Women's Centre, and several Downtown Eastside housing justice coalitions. She has been active in migrant justice, Indigenous solidarity, feminist, anti-racist, and anti-capitalist movements for over a decade. Walia is a frequent guest speaker at campuses and conferences across North America and has delivered numerous presentations to the United Nations. She is the author of Undoing Border Imperialism (2013) and has contributed to over thirty academic journals, anthologies, magazines and newspapers.
Walia has been named one of BC's top ten left-wing journalists and writers by The Georgia Straight, one of the most influential South Asians in BC by The Vancouver Sun, and "one of Canada’s most brilliant and effective organizers" by Naomi Klein. She is also a recipient of the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives Power of Youth Award and Westender’s Best of the City awards in Activism and Change-Making.
- 1 Activism
- 2 Written work
- 3 References
No One Is Illegal
In 2001, Walia co-founded No One Is Illegal (NOII), an anti-colonial, anti-racist and anti-capitalist migrant justice movement. In addition to providing direct support for refugees and migrants facing detention and deportation, NOII campaigns for full legal status and access to city/social services for all people, and works in solidarity with Indigenous self-determination, anti-occupation and grassroots anti-oppression movements. Although Walia has worked with NOII groups across Canada, she is primarily associated with NOII-Vancouver. She is a previous member of NOII-Montreal and has assisted the Pakistani Action Committee Against Racial Profiling (Montreal) and Refugees against Racial Profiling (Vancouver).
As a member of NOII, Walia has been involved in several sanctuary campaigns alongside communities and organizers from immigrant and racialized backgrounds. She has participated, for instance, in the campaign to stop the deportation of Laibar Singh, a paralyzed Punjabi refugee; the Let them Free, Let them Stay campaign for incarcerated Tamil refugee claimants aboard the MV Ocean Lady and MV Sun Sea; and the Campaign to Stop Secret Trials, calling for the abolition of security certificates. Together with NOII-Vancouver, Walia organizes the Annual Community March Against Racism, which was initiated in 2008. She also collectively organized a No One Is Illegal, Canada Is Illegal contingent as part the 2010 No Olympics On Stolen Native Land convergence in Vancouver.
In 2013, Walia condemned the non-consensual filming of migrant workers by the reality television show Border Security: Canada's Front Line during raids on construction sites by Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). She argued that the show, produced by National Geographic and Force Four Entertainment, took advantage of "the violence of detention and deportation," violated individuals' privacy rights and reinforced anti-migrant sentiments and policies. Along with NOII protests against the raids and filming, a campaign to cancel the Border Security series was backed by over 100 cultural producers (including Walia and Naomi Klein) in an open letter and a petition signed by over 25,000 people. The show was eventually cancelled in 2016 on grounds of privacy infringement.
In January 2014, Walia and NOII-Vancouver demanded an inquest into the death of Lucia Vega Jimenez, an undocumented Mexican refugee who lived and worked in Vancouver, who died in the custody of CBSA four weeks after being detained. Other migrant justice and civil liberties groups as well as over 7,500 petition signers also called for an inquest, which was announced by BC Coroners Service in February 2013 and led to several jury recommendations and overhaul of CBSA detention practices. In view of Vancouver Transit Police's involvement in the incarceration of Jimenez, Walia co-founded the Transportation Not Deportation campaign, which brought about the end of a Memorandum of Understanding between Transit Police and the CBSA. Transportation Not Deportation was awarded the 2016 Liberty Award for Community Activism by the BC Civil Liberties Association.
In 2015, Walia co-authored Never Home: Legislating Discrimination in Canadian Immigration, a report on the impact of Canadian immigration policies implemented by the Conservative government during Stephen Harper's tenure. The report was part of an "innovative" and collaborative multimedia project by NOII-Vancouver and Shit Harper Did, which included a series of refugee and migrant stories in video form.
Subsequent to Donald Trump's election and signing of Executive Order 13769 on January 27, 2017 to establish "extreme vetting" procedures for refugees and immigrants attempting to enter the United States, Walia reported a greater volume of incoming calls to NOII from undocumented migrants in the US seeking to claim asylum in Canada. She has stated that, despite many government-sponsored messages that Canada is welcoming to refugees, the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) prevents those who reach the Canadian border via the US from claiming refugee status. Consequently, she has added, many people cross irregularly into B.C., where they are often intercepted by the RCMP. NOII have urged the Trudeau government to repeal the STCA, although the agreement currently remains in effect. In April 2017, NOII-Vancouver released and distributed Border Rights for Refugees, a pamphlet available in 17 languages with information for those seeking asylum in Canada.
Walia and NOII-Vancouver also worked with the Burnaby school district to change registration procedures in 2017, ensuring that all children, regardless of immigration status, can access school.
Women's Memorial March
For over a decade Walia has worked with the February 14th Women's Memorial March Committee, founded in 1992 following the murder of a woman on Powell Street in Vancouver. Led largely by Indigenous women, the committee organizes the annual February 14 Women's Memorial March for women who have died in the Downtown Eastside (DTES). A 20-year history of the Women's Memorial March is documented in a 2011 short film co-directed by Walia and Alejandro Zuluaga, titled Survival, Strength, Sisterhood: Power of Women in the Downtown Eastside. The film presents footage of recent and previous marches and centres on the voices of women in the DTES, including members of the Downtown Eastside Power of Women Group, who developed the concept for the film. With their film, Walia and Zuluaga seek to "debunk the sensationalism surrounding a neighbourhood deeply misunderstood, and celebrate the complex and diverse realities of women organizing for justice."
Downtown Eastside Women's Centre
Walia is a project coordinator at the Downtown Eastside Women's Centre (DEWC), established in 1978 as a safe, community-driven space for women and children in the DTES of Vancouver. The Centre offers support through daily drop-in and emergency shelters, as well as food, advocacy, counselling and housing outreach services. At the DEWC, Walia facilitates the Power of Women (POW) group, a program which is run for and by women living in the DTES. The Power of Women group organizes weekly community discussions and actions with the goal of identifying, resisting and transforming rhetoric and policies that marginalize women. POW is upheld by leadership and involvement of women most affected by systemic injustice, particularly homelessness, abuse, and child apprehension; the group's work, Walia says, is therefore "rooted in the experiences and voices of residents of the DTES."
Walia and the Power of Women group together help to organize the annual February 14 Women's Memorial March and have pressured the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) to investigate and act on cases of missing and murdered women. They are also involved in numerous housing justice campaigns and coalitions, including the Downtown Eastside Is Not for Developers Coalition. 2006 marked the beginning of POW's Annual Women's Housing March for safe and affordable housing for low-income residents of the DTES.
Indigenous Land Defence
With NOII-Vancouver, Walia has assisted the Skwelkwek'welt Protection Centre since 2003 and the Sutikalh Protection Camp since 2004, in their fights against resort and hotel construction on Secwepemc and St'at'imc lands. She has convened Immigrants in Support of Idle No More and is a supporter of the Defenders of the Land Network, the Indigenous Assembly Against Mining and Pipelines, and the Unist’ot’en Action Camp in Wet’suwet’en territory, which she has visited on multiple occasions.
Olympic Resistance Network
Walia was active in the Olympic Resistance Network (ORN), which instigated a number of anti-Olympic actions and demonstrations during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver. The actions were in response to escalating homelessness rates of low-income residents in the DTES and cuts to social programs due to urban gentrification in the build-up to the Games. The Women’s Memorial March Committee and Power of Women group, both of which Walia is involved in, also resisted the Games by refusing to cancel or reroute the annual February 14 Women’s Memorial March, and obstructing the Olympic Torch Relay as it passed through the DTES.
In alliance with numerous other groups, the ORN organized a No Olympics on Stolen Land convergence and several rallies, such as No More Empty Talk, No More Empty Lots. During the latter event on February 15, 2010, a tent city known as the Olympic Tent Village assembled on a lot owned by real estate developer Concord Pacific, which functioned as a parking lot during the Olympics. With the support of DTES Elders, residents, activists and organizations, including the Power of Women group, the site served as a community shelter and gathering place from which BC Housing was pressured to provide safe and affordable homes for those in the Village. Over 40 homeless residents were housed as a result of the two-week-long Olympic Tent Village.
Following an anti-Olympic demonstration on February 13, 2010, during which black bloc tactics were employed and windows of the Hudson's Bay Company (an Olympic sponsor) in Downtown Vancouver were smashed, Walia defended the protestors, stating that several of them are devoted activists who support marginalized communities and adopt a range of tactics to do so. She also expressed that wearing masks during protests is a reasonable precaution in light of mass surveillance practices, and that black bloc methods can heighten the effectiveness of less direct actions such as the February 14th Women's Memorial March.
An active member within Vancouver's South Asian community, with whom she aims to "lift up the reality of what’s going on in South Asia in terms of the global landscape of geopolitical warfare," Walia is on the board of the South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy. She has been involved in Anti-Capitalist Convergence and the Northwest Anti-Authoritarian People of Colour Network, sits on the board of Shit Harper Did, and is a youth mentor for Check Your Head. Walia has also participated in the Occupy and Occupy Together movements.
Walia was one of over 800 protesters arrested during the G8 and G20 protests in Toronto in late June 2010. She faced "extremely serious and fabricated charges," which were withdrawn on June 29, 2010, after which Walia was released from prison.
Along with Alice Kendall and Angela Marie MacDougall, Walia was arrested on October 4, 2010, a national day of action for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, after occupying a local Vancouver police station to demand an investigation into the death of Ashley Machiskinic. The three detained women were released the following day.
Undoing Border Imperialism
Undoing Border Imperialism is Walia's first book, published in 2013 as part of AK Press' Anarchist Intervention Series. The book features a forward by Andrea Smith in addition to contributions by over thirty activists and cultural producers, including Carmen Aguirre, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha and Melanie Cervantes.
In the opening chapters of the book, Walia presents a theoretical analysis of what she refers to as "border imperialism." The four key components of border imperialism that are outlined include: the displacement of populations and securitization of borders; criminalization and incarceration of "illegal" immigrants; racialized hierarchies of citizenship and belonging; and labour precarity, which maintains the migrant worker's experience as "commodified and exploitable, flexible and expendable." In her analysis, Walia underscores the connections between these four characteristics of border imperialism and global systems of oppression, such as colonialism, racism, capitalism and the prison system.
In the book's later chapters, Walia chronicles the efforts of numerous movements, such as No One Is Illegal, that seek to undo border imperialism. She examines the "bordered logic within our own movements" and discusses ways in which movements can decolonize and grow through self-reflection, leadership from those directly affected by systemic injustice, as well as long-term solidarity with Indigenous communities and other justice-seeking movements.
Undoing Border Imperialism was referred to by Indigenous rights activist Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz as "the first extended work on immigration that refuses to make First Nations sovereignty invisible." The book has also received praise from figures such as Naomi Klein (who described it as "a tremendous gift to us all"), Vijay Prashad and Ashanti Alston.
Walia sits on the editorial boards of Abolition Journal, Radical Desi, and The Feminist Wire. Her writings have appeared in the following anthologies, journals, magazines and news outlets, among others.
Anthologies and journals
- Walia, Harsha. "Challenge Patriarchy as You Organize." Beautiful Trouble: A Toolbox for Revolution, by Andrew Boyd and Dave Oswald Mitchell, OR Books, 2012.
- Walia, Harsha. "Consensus Is a Means, Not an End." Beautiful Trouble: A Toolbox for Revolution, by Andrew Boyd and Dave Oswald Mitchell, OR Books, 2012.
- Walia, Harsha, and Proma Tagore. "Prisoners of Passage: Immigration Detention in Canada." Beyond Walls and Cages: Prisons, Borders, and Global Crisis, by Jenna M. Loyd et al., The University of Georgia Press, 2012, pp. 74–90. Rpt. in The Winter We Danced: Voices from the Past, the Future, and the Idle No More Movement. Ed. The Kino-nda-niimi Collective. Winnipeg: ARP Books, 2014, pp. 44–51.
- Walia, Harsha. "Moving Beyond a Politics of Solidarity toward a Practice of Decolonization." Organize!: Building from the Local for Global Justice, by Aziz Choudry et al., PM Press, 2012, pp. 240–253.
- Walia, Harsha. "Young, Brown and Proud: Personal purpose and political activism." Power of Youth: Youth and community-led activism in Canada, special issue of Our Schools/Our Selves, vol. 21. no.3, 2012, pp. 31–40.
- Walia , Harsha. "Race and Imperialism: Migration and Border Control in the Canadian State ." Racism and Borders: Representation, Repression, Resistance, by Jeff Shantz, Algora Publishing, 2010, pp. 73–94.
- Walia, Harsha. "Transient Servitude: Migrant Labour in Canada and the Apartheid of Citizenship." Race & Class, vol. 52, no. 1, 2010, pp. 71–84. *Walia, Harsha, et al. "Cops and Courts." Stay Solid!: a Radical Handbook for Youth, by Matt Hern, AK Press, 2013.
Magazines and news outlets
- Canadian Dimension
- Left Turn
- The Feminist Wire
- Vancouver Media Co-op
- Z Magazine
- Walia (2013), p. 315.
- Collective, Kino-nda-niimi (2014). The Winter We Danced: Voices from the Past, the Future, and the Idle No More Movement. Winnipeg: Arbeiter Ring Publishing. p. 436. ISBN 9781894037518.
- "Author, activist Harsha Walia to speak on migrant justice". news.ok.ubc.ca. Retrieved 2018-04-16.
- "Announcing our #CAPAL17 Keynote Speakers! – Canadian Association of Professional Academic Librarians". capalibrarians.org. Retrieved 2018-03-29.
- "By popular demand, the most left-wing journalists, writers, and broadcasters in the province". Georgia Straight Vancouver's News & Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2018-04-20.
- "Power of Youth Leadership Awards". Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Retrieved 2018-03-30.
- "Best of the City 2017: People". Vancouver Courier. Retrieved 2018-03-30.
- Walia (2013), p. 98.
- "Harsha Walia probes how boundaries oppress us in Undoing Border Imperialism". Georgia Straight Vancouver's News & Entertainment Weekly. 2013-12-23. Retrieved 2018-03-27.
- "No One Is Illegal – Vancouver » Blog Archive » Important NOII Annoucement About Future Communications". noii-van.resist.ca. Retrieved 2018-03-27.
- Walia (2013), pp. 97-156.
- "No One Is Illegal holds celebration to coincide with release of new book Undoing Border Imperialism". Georgia Straight Vancouver's News & Entertainment Weekly. 2013-12-15. Retrieved 2018-03-26.
- Walia (2013), pp. 102, 106-107.
- Walia (2013), pp. 98-99, 146.
- Walia, Harsha (Spring 2012). "Young, Brown and Proud" (PDF). Our Schools/Our Selves. 21 (3): 31–40.
- "Paralyzed man avoids deportation again". Retrieved 2018-04-09.
- Walia (2013), pp. 153-154.
- Walia (2013), pp. 117-124.
- Walia (2013), pp. 151-152.
- "Protests follow news of reality show cameras accompanying Vancouver immigration busts". Georgia Straight Vancouver's News & Entertainment Weekly. 2013-03-14. Retrieved 2018-03-27.
- "From global action, local motion: Harsha Walia seeks justice for Vancouver newcomers". Megaphone. Retrieved 2018-03-27.
- "Cultural producers call for cancellation of Border Security in open letter". Georgia Straight Vancouver's News & Entertainment Weekly. 2013-04-19. Retrieved 2018-03-27.
- "Despite controversy, filming of new season of Border Security underway". Retrieved 2018-03-27.
- "'Border Security' TV show cancelled after watchdog finds privacy violation | Toronto Star". thestar.com. Retrieved 2018-03-27.
- "Groups demand inquest into CBSA custody death". Retrieved 2018-04-20.
- "Inquest called into CBSA custody death of Mexican woman | CBC News". CBC. Retrieved 2018-04-20.
- "B.C. inquest into hanging death recommends holding centre for immigrants | CBC News". CBC. Retrieved 2018-04-20.
- Carman, Tara. "Canada's border agency ignored most recommendations by coroner’s jury". www.vancouversun.com. Retrieved 2018-04-21.
- "Transit Police to end memorandum of understanding with CBSA". Global News. Retrieved 2018-04-21.
- "The BC Civil Liberties Association is pleased to announce the 2016 Liberty Awards honorees". NationTalk. Retrieved 2018-04-21.
- "About | NeverHome.ca". Never Home. Retrieved 2018-04-21.
- "Migrants slam impact of immigration overhaul | The Star". thestar.com. Retrieved 2018-04-21.
- "Trump's refugees: Fleeing a xenophobic America". Georgia Straight Vancouver's News & Entertainment Weekly. 2017-12-06. Retrieved 2018-03-27.
- "'Border rights for refugees' to Canada flyer issued in 17 languages | Metro Vancouver". metronews.ca. Retrieved 2018-03-28.
- "'We had to run': Refugees walking across B.C. border in fear of U.S. crackdown". Vancouver Sun. 2017-02-12. Retrieved 2018-03-28.
- Naylor, Cornelia. "Parents 'need not be afraid'". Burnaby Now. Retrieved 2018-04-21.
- "New Westminster School District to vote on sanctuary school policy". Vancouver Sun. 2017-02-10. Retrieved 2018-04-21.
- "Undoing Border Imperialism with Harsha Walia – Canadian Dimension". canadiandimension.com. Retrieved 2018-03-29.
- "About". Feb 14th Annual Womens Memorial March. 2009-12-17. Retrieved 2018-03-28.
- "An Interview with Harsha Walia - The Feminist Wire". The Feminist Wire. 2014-03-13. Retrieved 2018-03-28.
- "Survival, Strength, Sisterhood: Power of Women in the Downtown Eastside". Vimeo. Retrieved 2018-03-28.
- Zuluaga, Alejandro; Walia, Harsha; Downtown Eastside Power Of Women Group, eds. (2011). Survival, strength, sisterhood: [Power Of Women in the Downtown Eastside. [Vancouver: Downtown Eastside Power Of Women Group.
- "Harsha Walia". Parkland Fall Conference. Retrieved 2018-04-16.
- "Our Mission and Purpose - Downtown Eastside Women's Centre". Downtown Eastside Women's Centre. Retrieved 2018-03-28.
- "Power of Women: Building change at the DTES grassroots | rabble.ca". rabble.ca. Retrieved 2018-03-28.
- "Power of Women - Downtown Eastside Women's Centre". Downtown Eastside Women's Centre. Retrieved 2018-03-28.
- "Introduction - Downtown Eastside Women's Centre". Downtown Eastside Women's Centre. Retrieved 2018-03-29.
- "Three women arrested for occupying police station to demand investigation into DTES resident and Indigenous woman Ashley's death are released with charges | Vancouver Media Co-op". vancouver.mediacoop.ca. Retrieved 2018-03-28.
- "Report from DTES Women's Housing March, Gentrifuckation Tour, and Block Party to Block Condos". The DTES is not for Condo Developers. 2011-09-18. Retrieved 2018-03-30.
- Walia (2013), pp. 132-133, 148.
- "Identities of two Mi'kmaq Warriors on RCMP 'threat' list revealed - APTN News". APTN News. 2016-11-10. Retrieved 2018-03-29.
- Lee, Jo-Anne (2015-06-01). "Harsha Walia in Conversation with MM&D Editor Jo-Anne Lee". Migration, Mobility, & Displacement. 1 (1): 62. ISSN 2369-288X.
- Zirin, Dave (2013-01-29). Game Over: How Politics Has Turned the Sports World Upside Down. The New Press. p. 62. ISBN 9781595588425.
- "In the Shadow of the Olympic Flame: A Report from the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, the Poorest Neighborhood in Canada". Democracy Now!. Retrieved 2018-03-28.
- Walia (2013), p. 143.
- "Chronicles of the Olympic Tent Village | Vancouver Media Co-op". vancouver.mediacoop.ca. Retrieved 2018-03-29.
- "Olympic Tent Village Ends, Homelessness Continues | Vancouver Media Co-op". vancouver.mediacoop.ca. Retrieved 2018-03-29.
- "W2 forum focuses on black bloc tactics in February 13 protest against Vancouver Olympics". Georgia Straight Vancouver's News & Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2018-03-29.
- "SANSAD". SANSAD. Retrieved 2018-03-29.
- "Presenters & Participants". Tragedy of the Market: from Crisis to Commons. 2011-11-17. Retrieved 2018-03-29.
- "Harsha Walia". www.goodreads.com. Retrieved 2018-03-30.
- "Letter to Occupy Together Movement | rabble.ca". rabble.ca. Retrieved 2018-03-29.
- "G20 Arrests and Organizing for Freedom | Vancouver Media Co-op". vancouver.mediacoop.ca. Retrieved 2018-03-29.
- Walia (2013), p. 323.
- Durban-Albrecht, Erin (2014-03-13). "A Review of "Undoing Border Imperialism" - The Feminist Wire". The Feminist Wire. Retrieved 2018-03-30.
- "Undoing Border Imperialism | AK Press". www.akpress.org. Retrieved 2018-03-30.
- Lee, Jo-Anne (2015-06-01). "Harsha Walia in Conversation with MM&D Editor Jo-Anne Lee". Migration, Mobility, & Displacement. 1 (1): 55–59. ISSN 2369-288X.
- Walia (2013), p. 71.
- Mott, Carrie (2016). "Spaces of Solidarity: Negotiations of Difference and Whiteness among Activists in the Arizona/Sonora Borderlands". Theses and Dissertations--Geography. 45: 11–12, 79, 97.
- Walia (2013), pp. 253, 264-265.
- Walia (2013), pp. I-II.
- "Decolonizing together". briarpatchmagazine.com. Retrieved 2018-04-12.
- "2011: Reflecting on Social Movement Successes in Canada – Canadian Dimension". canadiandimension.com. Retrieved 2018-04-12.
- "Slutwalk – to march or not to march". Feministing. Retrieved 2018-04-12.
- "Search | Left Turn - Notes from the Global Intifada". www.leftturn.org. Retrieved 2018-04-12.
- "Harsha Walia | rabble.ca". rabble.ca. Retrieved 2018-04-12.
- "Indigenous Women: Never Idle - The Feminist Wire". The Feminist Wire. 2013-06-28. Retrieved 2018-04-13.
- "Harsha Walia | Vancouver Media Co-op". vancouver.mediacoop.ca. Retrieved 2018-04-12.
- "ZCommunications » Author » Harsha Walia". zcomm.org. Retrieved 2018-04-12.