By Maurice Cacho and Josh Swan
CKLN volunteer Wendy Maxwell Edwards spent her last night on Canadian soil alone in a Milton jail cell.
The next morning, March 14, the community activist awoke to face her deportation back to Costa Rica–the country she fled almost a decade ago. In a parting testimony from prison, Maxwell urged her friends to “just concentrate on getting me back (to Canada).”
The radio programmer also added that “wherever my heart is, is where I call home.” Despite pressure from the Wendy Maxwell Support Committee and a rally at the immigration office to keep the radio programmer in Canada, Maxwell was escorted to her plane at 9 a.m. Monday.
Committee organizer Stefanie Gude said that last she had heard, Maxwell “spent her last day in jail in segregation.” “Please tell me, who is the criminal?” Maxwell said between sobs in a telephone recording that played to a throng of her supporters March 10.
“Is it us in (jail), or a system that put us in here? All I wanted is to be safe.”
On March 8, Maxwell, who had been living illegally in Canada for two years, was arrested on campus while selling cookies at an International Women’s Day march. A judge ruling in her case denied her bond last week, deeming Maxwell was so afraid of her native Costa Rica that she constituted a “flight risk.”
Maxwell had reportedly been sexually assaulted by Costa Rican police and also feared persecution because of her sexual orientation. Spoken-word artist Eve Labi was among the last to visit Maxwell at the Vanier women’s detention centre before her deportation. “She’s completely lost the little ounce of faith she had in the justice system,” Labi said of Maxwell’s condition on March 10 during a celebration of Maxwell’s contributions. “She’s in a really bad state.”
About 40 poets, rappers and reggae artists who know Maxwell as “Nzinga” (the name of an African queen) performed at the B-Sweet to support their friend.
“It’s sad she can’t be here,” remarked singer Lady Lucious when she saw the community turnout. Ryerson sociology professor Judy Rebick thinks the government should have done more for Maxwell.
“The Liberal government won’t even give us the courtesy of sitting down and talking to us. I am really angry,” she said. “I have never seen such arrogance in all my years of being an advocate.”
Nonetheless, even in the Vanier jail, Maxwell’s final days were dedicated to helping others.
“She was helping a woman…get access to lawyers and translators and community support,” said CKLN news director Kristen Schwartz. “She’s still being an organizer.”