March 20, 2013
Raid may have violated worker's rights
A raid on a residential construction site in Vancouver by Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers with a crew from a reality TV show is raising serious legal concerns about the privacy rights and personal security of migrant workers.
“Our concern is particularly about the use of the camera crews in accompanying the Canadian Border Service Agency officers,” said Josh Paterson, executive director of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA).
“It is inappropriate for law enforcement to have commercial entertainment cameras following them around. These are things we should not have to worry about. Their job is to apply the law properly and fairly.”
CBSA agents raided the construction site of a residential development on Victoria Drive in Vancouver on March 13.
They were searching for undocumented workers.
“While attempting to locate and arrest a previously deported person with a significant criminal history, several foreign nationals were also found to be working without proper authorization and were subsequently arrested,” said CBSA spokesperson Maria Ivancic.
“Employment fraud is one of CBSA’s national enforcement priorities, and any foreign national working illegally in Canada may face criminal charges under IRPA (Immigration and Refugee Protection Act) and may be issued a removal order.”
It has been widely reported that two CBSA officers arrived at the site around noon looking for two specific individuals, who were quickly located and arrested.
However, a short time later a group of armed officers emerged from black SUVs and surrounded the construction site.
The agents, some in plain clothes, began to make a sweep of the building from the top floor to the ground.
They questioned workers and asked for identification.
In addition, the CBSA showed up with an aggressive camera crew from a reality TV show and the arrested migrant workers were asked to sign consent forms to be filmed.
“The CBSA has established clear practices with the television production company to ensure the safety, security and privacy of those with which the Agency interacts with as well as of CBSA employees, the general public and the television crew on site,” she said.
“Participation in the television series is voluntary. An individual’s case will not be negatively or positively impacted by their decision to participate or not.”
Paterson has concerns about whether or not the operations of the CBSA are being affected by the presence of the camera crews.
“The officers should focus on doing their jobs properly and fairly, not generating entertainment,” he said.
“There may be nothing wrong with some of the workers who appear in this show.”
The BCCLA is also concerned about the privacy rights of the workers involved in the raid, as the CBSA was searching for migrants, who are often refugee claimants.
“There is a question if people’s consent is valid under these circumstances, because people are under duress at this point,” said Paterson.
“They are casting people who have done nothing wrong as criminals. These people and their families may also be at risk in their own countries, if they are seeking refugee status and waiting for a decision or entitlement to make a claim.”
The local media has reported that about eight people were arrested by the CBSA.
But, three of these people may have been wrongfully detained. These people may have difficulty finding work in the future.
Ivancic said the CBSA is participating in the documentary television series entitled Border Security, which is on National Geographic Channel and Global TV, to raise public awareness.
“The CBSA’s participation in this television series is an opportunity to communicate Canada’s commitment to border security by increasing awareness of the CBSA and the role its officers perform to ensure public safety,” she said.
“The show follows the regular day-to-day duties of CBSA employees, including at the land border, airports, mail centres and inland. While a film crew was present at yesterday’s enforcement action, our officers do this on a daily basis in the absence of cameras.”
In response, Paterson argued that people have the right to not have their interactions filmed for entertainment purposes regardless of their status.
“This is not an appropriate way to raise awareness because the safety and employability of these people are being threatened,” he said.
“It is not necessary to involve the worksite and a reality TV show to identify and apprehend a couple of individuals. This could be done in a more discrete way.”
Paterson said there is no reason migrant workers should be treated this way and paraded before the public.
“It interferes with everyone’s rights regardless of whether they broke the law,” he said. “It’s wrong to have everyone at a worksite rounded up to search for a few illegal workers.”
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