Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

March 23, 2004

U of G students launch film on immigration detention

A University of Guelph course was the catalyst for a student documentary film on detaining immigrants in Canada. Security Consciousness: Detained in Guelph premieres March 31 at 4 p.m. at the Book Shelf Cinema.

“The film emerged as a community-facing project in my ‘Literature and Social Change’ course,” said student Chris Jess. “We were challenged to reflect on struggles for social change, human rights and a politics of hope.”

With no film-making experience and little knowledge of immigration issues in Canada, Jess, five other U of G undergraduate students and a Sheridan College student worked to create a project that would use the medium of film to assemble and engage a wide audience in dialogue about the possibility of an alternative to the current state of immigration in Canada.

“The recently negotiated use of the Guelph correctional facility for detaining immigrants was the starting point for the project,” said Jess. “The project has since broadened to consider the role that post-9/11 security consciousness has had on the detention and deportation of immigrants and refugees in Canada.”

The film features interviews on immigration detention issues with people throughout Guelph, Toronto and Ottawa, including Guelph-Wellington MPP Liz Sandals, Homes Not Bombs representative Matthew Behrens, immigration lawyer Yavar Hameed and an immigration case worker with Ontario Coalition Against Poverty. Their stories show how 9/11 has created a new reactionary approach to fear, making it difficult to build bridges with people new to Canadian communities, said Jess.

“We hope to inspire a collective opposition to current practices of detention and to encourage suggestions for alternative government actions pertaining to this issue. We want to reach citizens within larger decision-making forums.”

Following the screening, there will be a discussion, a spoken-word performance on the theme of racial tensions, immigration and detention in Canada by two U of G graduate students, and a reception.

The students received funding for the film from campus groups and private organizations, and had support from volunteers throughout the Guelph community. “As a result of the generous support we received, we can provide free DVDs of Security Consciousness to anyone interested,” said Jess.

The success of their first film has inspired Jess and his peers to create Reel Alternative Productions, a volunteer, non-profit film collective. “We plan on using the resources and skills developed in the making of Security Consciousness to continue working on issues not commonly covered in mainstream media,” he said.

For more information, send e-mail to Jess at

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt (519) 824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rachelle Cooper, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982.

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