Parkdale's Roma community gather for candlelight vigil

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 1st of March 2012   Source: insidetoronto.com

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"Put your hand up if you have been a victim of violence," asked Gina Csanyi-Robah from the Toronto Roma Community Centre. "Put your hand up if you feel you have been persecuted." Hands from across the crowd gathered in front of Parkdale Collegiate Institute went up - hundreds of hands, both children and adults from Toronto's Roma community.


"Put your hand up if you know someone who has been murdered," she went on as a translator repeated her questions. "Put your hand up if you feel you need to stay in Canada."


After each of the questions, people attending the rally and candlelight vigil for the Roma refugees and immigrants raised their hands and shouted about the persecution and discrimination they faced in their countries of origin.

The Feb. 22 rally was held to recognize victims of racially motivated crimes, said Csanyi-Robah who is the executive director of the Toronto Roma Community Centre (RCC), a not-for-profit organization devoted to helping newly arrived and Canadian Roma. The centre has been operating in Toronto for the past 12 years and supports Roma from Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, the former Yugoslavia and other countries from the former Soviet Bloc.


The vigil was also held to show opposition to Bill C-31, Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act, which is set to strengthen Canada's immigration and refugee programs. The bill was tabled by federal Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney Feb. 16.


Parkdale-High Park MPP Cheri DiNovo spoke at the rally and said the bill unfairly targets members of the Roma community.


The following day, on Feb. 23, DiNovo read a statement in the legislature about the vigil and in opposition to Bill C-31.


"It's a bill that will limit even more Roma people from being able to seek refugee status in this country; we only accept two per cent of those who are applying now," DiNovo said. "The least we can do is to accept those who are already being faced with deportation from home countries, who are faced with imprisonment and violence and draconian laws throughout Europe."


DiNovo said the provincial NDP strongly opposes the bill and asked the provincial government to do what it when they're dealing with the federal government on this issue.


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