The B.C. Civil Liberties Association has launched a formal complaint with the federal government against the Canada Border Services Agency for allegedly breaking the law by allowing a TV series to film a raid on a Vancouver construction site.
“Federal agents should not come crashing into people’s workplaces and homes with commercial TV crews filming their actions like some sort of action movie,” said Josh Paterson, executive director of the association.
“That violates people’s privacy rights – in this case, the rights of a vulnerable migrant worker – and we think it violates Canada’s privacy law.”
CBSA agents raided the construction site of a residential development on Commercial Drive in Vancouver on March 13 searching for undocumented workers.
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 made a sweep of the building from the top floor to the ground, while they questioned workers and asked them for identification.
In addition, the CBSA showed up with a camera crew from a reality TV show.
“The federal government must respect the rights of every person it deals with, regardless of their immigration status,” said Peterson. “Mr. Mata Duran (one of the apprehended workers) has filed a complaint to the federal Privacy Commissioner alleging that the government’s use of a reality TV crew to film his arrest and interrogation was unlawful and we will pursue this complaint in his absence from Canada.”
More than an hour after Duran’s interrogation in front of the TV cameras, he was asked to sign a consent form for the filming, without a full explanation of what he was signing or how the video footage would be used.
According to the complaint, Duran was in CBSA detention and was afraid when he signed the form.
He also did not understand the meaning of the document. For this reason, the complaint states that Duran cannot be considered to have freely given his consent under the circumstances.
The complaint alleges that the collection of Duran’s personal information from the arrest and his interrogation by the CBSA’s reality TV crew violated the Privacy Act, which only permits the collection of information by government that is directly related to its operations.
The purpose of the collection by the TV crew was to create for-profit entertainment, which is not under the CBSA’s mandate.
Duran was deported from Vancouver on March 20, when he boarded a plane to Mexico.
Friends and supporters accompanied him to Vancouver International Airport.
He came to Canada five years ago and admits he stayed illegally after his student visa expired.
He had been working at the construction site for three months when officers raided the site. He was arrested with seven other people suspected of violating immigration and work permit rules.
The CBSA is participating in the documentary television series entitled Border Security, which airs on the National Geographic Channel and Global TV.
Cressey Development Corp. is both the developer and the prime contractor on the project, but Duran said that he worked for a smaller subcontracting firm.