Detained Canadian student released and on flight back to Canada from Philippines
At 8:30 pm Manila time on Sunday, September 15 (8:30 am EST), Canadian student Kim Chatillon-Meunier was able to take her flight from Manila’s NAIA Terminal 2 to Vancouver, Canada after being released from detention.
Kim was able to send a short text message from the plane: “Im on my flight, direct to vancouver with philippines airline I could never thank you enough for you help and I will always remeber it. People’s lawyer and Karapatan were outstanding, you can count on my support.”
This is excellent news and is the result of strong pressure put on the Philippines authorities by the human rights organization, KARAPATAN, assisted by lawyers from the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) and other Philippine organizations in concert with organizations and individuals in Canada and around the world. Canadian government officials were also apparently in contact with Kim. Particular kudos to Tinay Palabay (Karapatan) and Edre Olalia (NUPL) and their respective organizations for a job very well done.
Kim’s detention received top level media attention in the Philippines and in Canada (TV and radio reports in both French and English on CBC, CTV, etc.) and was accompanied by a barrage of letters, e-mails, and other messages to the Philippine government and Canadian government officials. The rapidity of the strong response served to force the release of Kim during the weekend and in the face of some Philippine government officials’ attempts to delay any response until offices opened on Monday.
Kim was primarily in the Philippines for her internship requirement at the Université de Montreal, Canada where she is a regular student. She was selected by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) to go into an internship program in the Philippines called ‘Students for Development’ sponsored and financed by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). Kim was involved in the research and documentation of the reproductive health conditions of women in Tondo, Manila.
While in the Philippines, Kim was able to attend the International Conference on Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRPP) in July. She also joined the International Solidarity and Humanitarian Mission in Quezon Province, along with other foreign participants, shortly before the Conference.
We at the Centre for Philippine Concerns are very pleased for Kim, her family and loved ones here in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, who have been on a roller coaster ride of emotions since learning that Kim had been detained on September 13 as she attempted to board a plane to return home. She was imprisoned for apparently attending a rally in the Philippines last July. This action, which eye witnesses report Kim only arrived at late and simply observed, was attended by over 15,000 people on July 22, 2013. Such rallies have become a regular occurrence during the yearly State of the Union Address (SONA) by the Philippine President, with the Filipino people using SONA to address their concerns for better working and living conditions to the Philippine government.
While naturally very pleased at this outcome we are also very concerned for all those involved, like Kim, in people-to-people exchanges between Canada and the Philippines. Many such people are now apparently being placed on Philippine government “watch lists” and “black lists”.
Is this an attempt by the Philippine government to say that all those like Kim who decide to go to the Philippines and work with and participate in the activities of the people, especially the poor, are no longer welcome in the Philippines? Such activities could involve being with the people as they execute their basic democratic right to protest or rally and call attention to mistakes or misjudgments on the part of the Philippine government.
We certainly hope this is not the Philippine government’s intention. However, this is the second such incident over the past three months. The other involved a young Dutch citizen, Thomas Van Beersum, who was also detained when he tried to catch a plane out of Manila, to be subsequently “deported” and told he was on a “black list” and could never return to the Philippines. Van Beersum was accused of attending the same SONA rally that Kim and about 100 other international delegates from the ICHRPP were invited to observe.
We join with Filipino groups and organizations here in Canada such as KAIROS in requesting an immediate end to the use of such “watch lists” and “black lists”. We also trust that the Canadian government will send a strong message of displeasure to the Philippine government on its serious mistreatment of a Canadian citizen and its use of these lists.
We look forward to welcoming Kim back in Montreal along with her family and friends. We will certainly be marking this victory during the 30th anniversary celebrations of our Centre d’appui aux Philippines – Centre for Philippine Concerns at the Maison de l’amitié, 120 Duluth East, in Montreal, Quebec, next Saturday, September, 21, 2013. The celebration, getting underway at 7 pm with program at 8 pm, is open to all.
Centre d’appui aux Philippines – Centre for Philippine Concerns (Montréal)