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Help Bring Gary Freeman Home to Canada

February 27, 2010

Why is the Canadian Government trying to prevent Gary Freeman from returning to his Toronto-area home?

Please take action to help reunite a Canadian family (details on what you can do at bottom of this email)

Douglas Gary Freeman (the former Joseph Pannell), an African American, is married to a Canadian, and they have four Canadian-born children. He has been a well-loved and respected member of the community since his arrival in Canada in 1974. The Canadian government is trying to prevent Mr. Freeman, who has lived the majority of his life in Canada, from returning home.

Background

In 2004, Mr. Freeman was sought for extradition to the US to face decades-old charges stemming from an incident involving a white police officer in the racially and politically charged Chicago of 1969. The officer, interviewed in 2008 by the National Post, said, “He and I were both very young when all this started. And they were very turbulent times, on both sides of the coin.”

They were turbulent times indeed. For many in the African-American community, Chicago, like most U.S. cities, felt like a city under armed occupation. That year, a committee was formed whose title painfully illustrated the social scene at the time: The Committee to End the Murder of Black People. The police murders of 11 young black men in 1969, so long a part of daily life that it hardly made the news, had reached such proportions that the community had to stand up and name this police practice for what it was: outright murder.

According to The Boston Review, “In the late 1960s, Chicago police led the nation in the slaying of private citizens, who were euphemistically characterized as ‘fleeing felons’ to mask the routine use of excessive force by police against racial minorities. The police also exploited seemingly benign offense categories, such as disorderly conduct, vagrancy, and loitering to bully minority youths and adults who had the audacity to challenge police authority.”

Court documents proved that Mr. Freeman’s presence and location in Canada was known to authorities since 1974, yet U.S. authorities waited 30 years to seek his return.

A 2008 Plea Bargain

After 3 years and 7 months of pre-extradition custody in Canada, Mr. Freeman voluntarily returned to Chicago in February, 2008, where he accepted a prosecution proffered plea bargain agreement of a guilty plea to a single count of Aggravated Battery for a sentence of 30 days in the Cook County Jail, 2 years of probation, and a major contribution to a Chicago police charity. It was a plea that was satisfactory to the officer, who told The National Post, “If he [Freeman] were to have served 15 years in prison he’d be 75 when he got out: he wouldn’t survive that. I couldn’t tolerate that. I’m not out for blood.”

Mr. Freeman was released from custody in March 2008 and successfully completed his probation without incident in February 2010 Mr. Freeman began the process of applying to return to Canada while on probation, during which Mr. Freeman’s family was struck by the death of his father-in-law in Montreal on October 31, 2009. Mr. Freeman sought and received permission from U.S. authorities to attend the funeral but the Canadian government refused him entry for reasons of “serious criminality”.

Canada Throws up Walls

Further, the Canadian government has deemed Mr. Freeman “inadmissible” to Canada on “national security grounds” due to the false, unsubstantiated allegation that Mr. Freeman had been a member of the Black Panther Party (BPP), which the government of Canada alleges, again without supporting evidence, “is an organization which has engaged in terrorism”. This allegation is based entirely on incorrect newspaper articles.

The Black Panther Party is not listed anywhere in the world as a terrorist entity, either by the U.S., Canada, or the United Nations, and former high-profile members and associates of the group continue to travel freely to Canada for speaking engagements. Former members of the BPP are even members of the U.S. Congress and tenured university professors.

Court documents verify Mr. Freeman’s assertion that he was not a BPP member, and former Conservative Minister of Justice Vic Toews wrote in 2006 that the US would have to prove the BPP allegation, conceding that the government of Canada had no proof. Before Superior Court of Ontario Justice Ian Nordheimer in 2004, Canadian government prosecutors essentially conceded that Mr. Freeman was NOT a threat to society. Mr. Freeman holds a U.S. passport and has already flown twice since his 2008 release so he is definitely NOT on a no-fly list.

What You Can Do

  1. Download our petition (at http://www.freemandrum.org), get 25 or more signatures, and send the petition to us at: Family & Friends of Gary Freeman, H – 110 Frederick Street, Toronto, Ontario M5A 4A9.
  2. Write to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney. Please keep your letter short, polite, and to the point. You are asking Mr. Kenney to exercise his ministerial discretion under Section 25 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act in granting a temporary resident permit on humanitarian and compassionate grounds so that Mr. Gary Freeman (the former Joseph Pannell) can be re-united with his family.While the facts of this case are shocking, please do not make additional editorial comments about either Mr. Kenney or immigration policy in general. This is a simple plea to reunite a Canadian family. (no stamp required–handwritten notes are best)
  3. Jason Kenney, MP
    325 East Block
    House of Commons
    Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
    P. 613-992-2235
    F. 613-992-1920
    kennej@parl.gc.ca

    If you are emailing, please cc Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, toews.v@parl.gc.ca, and also send a copy to freemandrum@web.ca

  4. Arrange a meeting with your local Member of Parliament to discuss this issue. Get in touch with us first to find out what would be needed to be prepared, at freemandrum@web.ca
  5. Contribute to the costs of this family reunification campaign. Write cheques to “Toronto Action for Social Change” (add “Freeman” in memo section) and send to: TASC, PO Box 73620, 509 St Clair Ave West, Toronto, ON M6C 1C0
  6. More info: www.freemandrum.org
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