Approval for a reality show production crew to film an immigration raid at a Vancouver construction site came directly from the federal government, documents obtained by a Vancouver woman show.
Helesia Luke, who has a background in television production and now works with non-profits in Vancouver, was troubled by news of the immigration raid being filmed on Wednesday, so she asked the federal government for the production agreement.
The document, which she received within hours, outlines Force Four Entertainment's desire to enter into discussions with the Canadian Border Services Agency to produce a series on border security in Canada.
The document was prepared for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews and it bears his signature and approval.
It also says someone from the Prime Minister's Office viewed a demo reel provided by Force Four Entertainment, as well as members of Toews' staff and CBSA senior managers and legal services.
"And to see it go all the way to a ministerial level and be signed off by a minister was just really shocking, actually, because it's so abusive, it's so exploitative," Luke said.
The document also discusses how the Border Security show would be a valuable opportunity to promote messages about Canada's commitment to border security.
"They [the CBSA] have the attention of media. They have paid advertising at their disposal. I really think it's a stretch to say they have to resort to an agreement with a reality television show to get their story out," Luke said.
Diana Thompson, whose husband was arrested in the raid in East Vancouver, says he is facing deportation back to Honduras. Thompson is against the use of footage from the raid for a reality television show, and said the filming makes the process more hurtful.
"I feel that it makes it that much worse, that these companies are going to profit off a reality show of them tearing families apart," she said Thursday.
Company defends documentary
In a statement sent to media Friday, Rob Bromley, the president of Force Four Entertainment, said Border Security is a documentary series that follows strict protocols.
Bromley said the film crew that was at the CBSA raid on March 13 was filming events that were already taking place.
"The situation was in no way orchestrated for the cameras, and no one can be identified on the series without their written permission," the statement read.
In another statement, the company clarified that in one case, a member of its team asked for signed consent after the detainee had dealt with the CBSA, and without an officer present. The company also said the consent forms are provided in 16 different languages.
Border Services vets footage
The documents outlining the agreement between Force Four and the CBSA also lay out how a potentially negative portrayal of the CBSA would be mitigated through a number of pre-broadcast federal approvals.
The documents state that the CBSA must approve every segment on the program, and can hold them for a variety of reasons, including privacy violations or national security.
"All rough footage and final episodes are reviewed and approved by the CBSA so that factual inaccuracies, disclosure of restricted information, classified, or law enforcement sensitive materials are removed from aired episodes," the document says.
Luke questions how much the CBSA is subsidizing the show, if they are committing resources to review the show's material.
"I think CBSA is putting in in-kind contributions in the way of staff time. Clearly, they have a huge burden in terms of vetting the footage," she said.
The documents describe the costs of staff time as "not insignificant," but the next couple of lines appear to be whited out.
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has not made a public statement about the show.