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SAN FRANCISCO -- Bay Area activists set to speak at a teach-in on the human rights and environmental impacts of the oil industry have returned to the United States after having been arrested, detained, and denied entry by Canadian immigration officials at Calgary International Airport.
The officials told Carwil James of Project Underground and Amit Srivastava of the Transnational Resource & Action Center (TRAC) that they were detained because of their involvement in activities critical of the World Petroleum Congress, a global oil industry gathering.
"At a time when companies causing grave damage to communities and their environments are having a global meeting, freedom of speech is vital," said Mr. James. "Communities around the world resisting oil should see their concerns echoed in the streets and halls of Calgary, not questioned at the border."
Using a law that allows them to deny entry to individuals with prior convictions, Canadian officials detained James and Srivastava as they arrived to participate in the Widening People's Choices teach-in. Mr. James was formally declared "criminally inadmissable" Thursday night, a status
which bars him from Canada until he is proven "rehabilitated." Mr. James' sole criminal conviction was for civil disobedience at a pro-democracy protest at the Burmese Embassy in Washington, DC. Mr. Srivastavawho returned Thursday
evening prior to a formal declarationhadn't been arrested in nine years.
Immigration officials used the investigation as a pretext to read through and copy paper and electronic documents the activists carried, including Mr. Srivastava's year-long work plan.
"Such repressive government behavior is proving our point. Institutions such as the WTO, the World Bank and the global oil industry are antithetical to democracy, and often get nations to take any actions necessary to protect their interests, and thwart opposition," said Srivastava.
Both activists are people of color (Amit is Indian American and Carwil is African American). Other white activists with multiple civil disobedience charges were apparently let into Canada without any problem. "While this may be coincidence, we are also concerned that they may have been singled out as
activists of color" said Danny Kennedy, Director of Project Underground.
The activists were jailed overnight in the Calgary Remand Centre and transported in chains and shackles. Both are now available for interviews.
Returned to the United States:
Amit Srivastava, TRAC: 415-561-6472 or 415-786-4327
Carwil James, Project Underground: 510-705-8981 or
- 100 Climate Justice Initiative