Press Releases

Press Release – February 27, 2014

From Behind Church Walls: Montrealers rally in solidarity with Khurshid Begum Awan and others living in sanctuary across Canada

Montreal, February 27, 2014 – Today at noon, and linked with actions in Toronto, Vancouver, and Hamilton to mobilize against the violence of detentions and deportations, Montrealers will gather in front of Immigration offices to denounce the injustices that the Awan family is facing at the hands of the Canadian immigration system, and to demand that Immigration Minister, Chris Alexander, use his discretionary power to regularize Khurshid Begum Awan’s status immediately.

Living in sanctuary causes Khurshid, her daughter Tahira Malik and young grandson Ali immense daily stress.  Since six months ago, when Khurshid made the courageous decision to seek sanctuary in order to defy her removal order, the lives of the entire family have been put on hold. On top of this, unable to leave the church, Khurshid has been forced to miss important medical appointments. Her heart condition continues to deteriorate.

“I am constantly worried. I need to go to the hospital but I can’t,” states Mrs. Awan from sanctuary.

“Six months is beyond enough. This family has endured so much violence in Pakistan and here in Canada. It is in the hands of Chris Alexander to use the power at his disposal to give Khurshid status and he has done nothing. We demand that he act now without a moment’s delay,” says Alex Matak, member of the Awan family support committee

CAM01670With a creative visual piece highlighting the different faces of individuals and families who have lost their lives or had their lives suspended by the rigid and uncompromising immigration laws, today’s action also aims to highlight and connect sanctuary struggles across the country.   Over the past decade, dozens of individuals and families have made the extremely difficult decision to take sanctuary in churches across Canada.  In the context of increasingly racist and exclusionary immigration laws, migrants across the country are finding themselves in situations of tremendous precarity, sometimes even resorting to death rather than facing detention and deportation.

The Awan family and their supporters demand that Chris Alexander grant Khurshid Begum Awan status on Humanitarian grounds without delay, that her husband Mohammad Khalil Awan be permitted to return to Montreal, and that the entire family including Tahira and Ali be able to live with justice and dignity.

“Khurshid’s struggle for justice is also our struggle,” states Jose Figueroa from the church in Langley, BC where he has taken sanctuary. “It is not easy. Every day that goes by enduring the stress of having our freedom taken away, we will get closer to having our rights as immigrants upheld.”


Press release – February 14, 2014

6 months of Sanctuary: Awan Family receives visit from their Member of Parliament Thomas Mulcair inside Montreal church

MONTREAL, February 14th, 2014 – This noon hour, Khurshid Begum Awan was visited by Thomas Mulcair, the Member of Parliament representing her former residence in Côte-des-Neiges, where she lived before she was forced to take sanctuary in a Montreal church on August 21st, 2013.

By taking sanctuary, she courageously defied her deportation order which would have seen her returned to Pakistan where she faces targeted violence, lack of access to appropriate medical care, and indefinite separation from her daughter Tahira and grandson Ali.

The Right Reverend Bishop Barry Clarke of the Anglican Diocese of Montreal was present to welcome Mr. Mulcair. “The Anglican Church welcomes the presence of Mr. Mulcair and invites all political parties, institutions and community members to act in support of Mrs. Awan. We appeal to Minister Chris Alexander to recognize the urgency of Mrs. Awan’s situation and that of her family and to expedite Mrs Awan’s stay in Canada by any means available to him.”

Khurshid Begum Awan has been living in sanctuary for almost six months, during which time she has been unable to access the adequate medical care that is required by her serious health conditions, including a deteriorating heart condition. “I am constantly worried. I need to be able to go to the hospital, but I can’t, ” stated Mrs. Awan.

This ongoing trauma has placed other family members, including a 15 year old, under duress.  “We are fed up,” sates Tahira Malik, Mrs. Awan’s daughter.

“The Canadian Immigration system is fraught with injustice, pushing individuals and families to the brink of death, and all too often directly resulting in death itself» stated Farha Najah Hussain, member of the Awan Family Support Committee. “For close to six months, Immigration Minister Chris Alexander has actively ignored widespread appeals to address Mrs. Awan’s urgent situation. We call on all politicians and political parties to be accountable for the injustices that the immigration system is inciting on the Awan family and to demand that Mrs. Awan’s status be regularized immediately.”

The Awan family and their supporters demand that Mrs. Khurshid Begum Awan be granted status immediately; that her husband Mohammad Kahlil Awan be permitted to return to Canada and that the entire family including Tahira and Ali be able a life of justice and dignity.


Press release – January 31, 2014

New Year, Ongoing Injustice: Montrealers to Rally in Solidarity with the Awan Family and to Denounce the Treatment Leading to the Death of Lucia Vega Jimenez

Where: In front of Citizenship and Immigration Canada offices, 1010 Saint-Antoine West, Bonaventure Metro
When: Friday 31 January 2014, 12pm to 1pm


MONTREAL, January 31, 2013- As a new year begins, Montrealers will be gathering at the Citizenship and Immigration Office to denounce ongoing injustices in the case of Khurshid Begum Awan and to send the family’s wishes to Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander.

“For the past five months, Khurshid Begum Awan has been confined within the walls of a Montreal church. She continues to breathe injustice with every single moment spent without status and without the freedom to move”, said Farha Najah Hussain of the Awan Family Support Committee.”

In August 2013, Mrs. Awan faced the prospect of losing access to necessary health services, the risk of targeted violence, and the spectre of separation from her daughter and grandson if she were to return to Pakistan. She then courageously chose to defy her deportation.

“Immigration Canada, give me freedom”, declared Mrs. Awan, from sanctuary. ” I want to be free. I live in a constant state of worry”.

While awaiting the regularization of her status, Mrs. Awan’s has missed appointments and delayed important medical follow up. Unable to leave the church, she cannot seek hospital care when facing health emergencies- a reality that has contributed to the significant stress she experiences on a daily basis. Furthermore, she has been forced to forego things that many take for granted- such as purchasing groceries, visiting neighbours, or taking walks for fresh air. This has exacted a tremendous toll and left her life- as well as the lives of her daughter and grandson- on hold.

“I want status for my mom. It’s not good for her health to stay here. She needs medical attention”, her daughter, Tahira Malik, continued.

Supporters are protesting against months of inaction on the part of Minister Chris Alexander. “We waited nearly four months for a response from Minister Alexander, only to see him evade all responsibility”, said Amy Darwish of the Awan Family Support Committee. “Today, we are here to send a clear reminder to adopt a very different kind of new years’ resolution- namely, to use his discretionary powers to grant status to Mrs. Awan. ”

Earlier this week, the enraging news of the treatment and subsequent death of Lucia Vega Jimenez at the hands of Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) served as a tragic reminder that profound fear, trauma and stress are the reality for hundreds of thousands of migrants across the country. Reflecting on Jimenez’s death, Tahira Malik, asked, “How many more people are being pressured like us by CBSA, how many have thought of suicide? These people have to stop. They have to treat us like human beings.”

In addition to holding a picket in solidarity with the Awan family in Montreal, Awan Family support committee members humbly offer theirs hearts to those honouring the life of Lucia by protesting CBSA’s violence. A vigil will be held on Friday, January 31st at 5:30p.m. (PST), in front of CBSA offices in Vancouver.


Source: Justice for the Awan Family,


Press Release – December 18, 2013 (International Migrants Day)


When: December 18th, 2013, 8AM

Where: Citizenship and Immigration Office, corner of Peel and St-Antoine

Photos by Thien V.:

MigrantDay2013yarnMONTREAL, December 18, 2013- Lamp-posts surrounding the Citizenship and Immigration Canada office were covered in brightly coloured yarn this morning, as part of a yarn-bombing action held by members of the Awan Family Support Committee and the Collectif No Borders. The action took place on International Migrants Day, a day observed to commemorate the collective struggles of migrants worldwide. It also aims to highlight the struggle of the Awan family for status, justice and dignity.

“Today, we mark International Migrants Day by acknowledging a fierce woman in our lives. We acknowledge Khurshid’s meticulous and intricate knitting as she awaits freedom hour after hour, minute after minute, second after second. We affirm this human being’s persistence in fighting the violence of deportation by placing strings of yarn, woven into this tapestry of her resistance.” said Farha Najah Hussain, a member of the Awan Family Support Committee.

MigrantDay2013bannerSince August 2013, Khurshid Begum Awan has courageously defied a deportation order and taken refuge in a Montreal church. As such, she has been forced to miss numerous medical appointments, has been subjected to intimidation by the CBSA, and has endured tremendous stress on a daily basis. In her time behind church walls, knitting has become an important part of Mrs. Awan’s daily life. Not only does it enable her to pass the time, but it has also been a way for her to care for hose she loves. MigrantDay2013banner2

“One thread combined together makes a shirt. Just as people keep warm with such clothes, they are protected”, said Khurshid Begum Awan, from the church in which she is taking sanctuary.  “Similarly, my family and I want to be protected from violence and injustice.”
The installation also featured clay figurine inserts, aiming to assert organizers’ collective vision for tightly-knit communities and their hope that no others will slip through the cracks of the immigration system. Organizers are holding this action to demand status for Khurshid Begum Awan, and freedom for all migrants.

Press Release – November 28, 2013

100 Days of Sanctuary Too Many!

Mrs. Khurshid Begum Awan and Tahira Malik demand justice


Montreal, 28 November 2013 – Today marks the one-hundredth day of sanctuary for Mrs. Khurshid Begum Awan, a Pakistani refugee who courageously decided to defy a deportation order issued to her on August 21st 2013. Since then, she has been forced to live in a church in Montreal until her status is regularized. This has not only caused inordinate daily stress for her, her daughter Tahira, and her grandson Ali, but has forced her to miss medical appointments, and endure intimidation by Canada Borders Service Agents (CBSA). If deported to Pakistan, Mrs. Awan risks facing multiple forms of violence, including murder by members of the violent anti-Shia group, Sipah-e-Sahaba.

“I want justice for myself and my family. I am hopeful that Immigration Canada will give me status and will bring back my husband. I have a heart condition and need access to health care. I request to be able to live in dignity,” powerfully stated Khurshid Begum Awan in her native tongue of Punjabi from sanctuary.

Nov28rally2“About two weeks ago, over a thousand feminists gathered at the États généraux de l’action et de l’analyse féministes. Several propositions highlighting struggles against patriarchal violence were adopted. One of these propositions invited the feminist movement to fight against immigration policies that create oppression and inequalities for migrant women. In light of this rallying cry for justice, the FFQ declares today its solidarity with Mrs. Khurshid Begum Awan who is resisting the threat of deportation and a life of precarity being without status leading to state, interpersonal and economic violence,” declared Alexa Conradi, President of the Fédération des Femmes du Québec, and member of the Orientation Committeeof the États généraux.

“The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration (CIC) Chris Alexander has demonstrated blatant disregard for a hundred days. As we support her in her struggle, we have grown to love Khurshid. Like other community members, we refuse to watch her being jailed and criminalised for having migrated here. The Minister is inciting violence in this person’s life by failing to use his discretionary power to grant her status. This is unacceptable.” stated Leah Freedman, a member of the Awan Family Support Committee protesting in front of the CIC building in Montreal.

“I demand justice from the Canadian government. Bring back my father. I demand that my mother be able return to our house. She needs medical attention, she has a heart condition. I will not budge from these demands until they are met,” stated Tahira Malik marking 100 days of her mother being confined within church walls.


Source: Justice for the Awan Family,

Audio:,17:00 starting at 4:00


October 8,  2013

Press Release

Asylum-seeker in church sanctuary in Montreal: “We want to stop being afraid”

Montreal, 8 October 2013 – Khurshid Begum Awan, a refugee from Pakistan, has taken sanctuary in a church in Montreal to avoid deportation. Mrs. Awan’s husband, Mohamad Khalil Awan, was deported in April 2013 after the couple’s refugee claim was refused. Since his deportation, Mr. Awan suffered a gun attack and is now in hiding in Pakistan. Mrs. Awan is in very fragile health. The couple’s daughter, Tahira Malik, and teenage grandson are both Canadians and live in Montreal.

“We have called the media today because we want to stop being afraid,” said Tahira Malik in a press conference held in the headquarters of the Anglican church in Montreal. “My mother wants status. We want my father to come back. We want to stay together as a family, in our house, in Montreal. We are scared. We were living this kind of life in Pakistan. We face violence by my ex-husband and the Sipah-e-Sahaba in Pakistan. I came to Canada for freedom. But Canada had deported my father with memory loss. The Canadian government wants to deport my mom.”

“Taking sanctuary means that Mrs. Awan now lives in the church, unable to leave. This causes inordinate amounts of daily stress for her, her daughter and her grandson. The family’s current reality – one of basic survival – is caused by systemic exclusion of migrants in Canadian society and violence within Canada’s Refugee and Immigration system.” said Cynthia Beaudry, part of a support committee which has come together around the family.

“The Anglican Diocese of Montreal is committed to transform unjust structures of society and strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being. Our providing sanctuary for Mrs. Awan is to give her the care and support she needs for her well-being while issues around her status in Canada can be reconciled,” said the Right Reverend Barry Bryan Clarke, Anglican Bishop of Montreal.

Claudette Cardinal, spokesperson for Amnistie internationale Canada francophone, also spoke in support of the Awan family at the press conference.

Mrs. Awan has submitted an application for permanent residence on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. However it can take months, or even years, for a humanitarian application to be processed. Under section 25.1 (1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and section 5(4) of the Citizenship Act the Minister of Immigration has the discretionary power to regularize Mrs Awan’s situation immediately.

“Mrs. Awan is in a critical condition. The enormous stress she is currently under is only worsening this. She urgently needs fear-free access to specialized care in a secure environment.” said Dr. Marie-Jo Ouimet, Mrs. Awan’s treating physician, who volunteers for Médecins du monde in Montreal.

“We support people’s decisions to remove themselves from situations of violence. Khurshid came to Canada to build a life based on dignity alongside her family members. However, in her attempt to do so, she and her family have continued to endure violence in Canada, particularly within Canada’s Refugee and Immigration system,” stated Ghazala Munawar of the South Asian Women’s Community Centre.

Since the Refugee Exclusion Act was implemented in December 2012, the rate of refugees accepted in Canada has plummeted – the acceptance rate for the first half of 2013 was only 33%, the lowest in the history of the Immigration and Refugee Board. The number of refugee claims made has similarly fallen to less than half of previous averages, according to IRB statistics. Meanwhile, RCMP figures show that there are an estimated 500,000 migrants living in Canada without papers. Dozens of migrants have been forced to take sanctuary in churches in the past decade across Canada.


tel. 438 933 7654

Awan Family Support Committee


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