Illustration by Mathew Borrett

Halfway up the hill I sensed something was terribly wrong. Nearing the hundred-year-old building that housed the Children’s Peace Theatre, I heard shouts and panicked bilingual conversation. Parents called out kid names. “Paloma!” “Felipe!” “Nando!” “Vente!”

As I approached, the words “Hurry” and “Viene la migra” hit my ears. I cursed my arthritic knees that kept me from running. When I finally arrived, there was a flurry of activity around the house, the gardens, and the greenhouse. Bronze-skinned moms scooped up toddlers and dashed off on footpaths leading deeper into Taylor Creek Park. Their male counterparts hoisted pre-packed sports bags, grabbed kid hands and tread after the women. Every one of the “guests”, as we referred to them, scurried with purpose, seizing their belongings and children and disappearing into the bush. I marvelled at how fast they could move on this oppressively hot spring day.

Mere moments after the last of them had fled, I heard the roar of gas-fuelled vehicles racing up the driveway from Dawes Road. Five Hummers trundled through a corner of the garden, crushing seedlings in their wake, and screeched to a halt in front of the main entrance. An armoured bus careened to block the drive. Canadian Border Services. My heart sank. Clearly the children’s singing circle I had come to lead was cancelled. The plants would have to wait to be serenaded. Assuming they survived this day.

Thandie Williams, CPT’s Artistic Director, was striking, a lithe forty-something woman with long dreadlocks and skin the colour of half-past midnight. She stepped forward from a gaggle of angry staff, shocked performance artists, fearful parents, and a wide-eyed handful of eight- to twelve-year-olds who had come to sing with me.

Cops in SWAT gear poured out of their vehicles, weapons drawn. We froze. The kids looked to me, their teacher. “It’ll be okay.” I wasn’t convincing.

CBS agents swarmed the property, some charging along various footpaths, others kicking in unlocked doors to the house and shouting “hands up” or “on the floor.” Thumps, crashes, and protesting voices sounded.

Thandie shouted at some bulky dude with reflective sunglasses who swaggered like he was in charge. “Are you aware this is City of Toronto property? You’d better have a warrant.”

He ignored her and ordered us to stand together...

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About Zainab Amadahy