“Stop! If you walk further, you’ll be arrested.”
“I know; I am really sorry. You have to help us; we are entering.”
In partnership with the Saskatchewan-wide public art project Roadside Attractions, AKA artist-run centre in Saskatoon is presenting Michel Huneault’s Roxham from July 1 through August 31. In 2017, the number of asylum seekers entering Canada from the United States sharply increased, and Roxham Road in Quebec is the location with the most irregular border crossings. Over a period of 16 days between February and August 2017, photographer Michel Huneault went to Roxham Road and documented 180 border crossings, in images and audio, during which migrants from more than 20 countries entered Canada to ask for asylum. Wanting to protect these people’s identity, Huneault masked their silhouettes using fabric he photographed during the 2015 European migrant crisis—images of blankets in Hungary, clean clothing offered to migrants in Austria, or details of tents set up for migrants in Germany. This artistic choice underlines that these two crises are part of the same larger story.
In his project statement, Huneault explains, “At these invisible borders, the confusion is palpable and emotions run high. Migration, an exceedingly personal decision, has been thrust to the forefront of public and political debates. Roxham Road is quickly becoming symbolic: it embodies the tensions between the international responsibility to welcome others and the duty to protect a national territory. The 10-metre-wide Roxham Road becomes a microcosm of the world’s crises, offering a personal glimpse into the confusing quest for a safe place.”
If you are not in the area and would like to learn more about this project, check out the National Film Board of Canada’s interactive project Roxham. Created by Michel Huneault, with Maude Thibodeau and Chantal Dumas, produced by the NFB, in collaboration with Le Devoir, Phi and Dpt., the experience allows you to explore the moments around 32 actual irregular border crossings in virtual reality or in a 360 degrees online at www.nfb.ca/roxham.