British Columbia

Toews defends border raid show as CBSA documentary

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews during Question Period on Monday defended his decision to give approval for a reality TV crew to film immigration raids .

Wife of detained migrant starts petition calling for show's cancellation

More outrage over CBSA reality TV show

9 years ago
Duration 2:09
Thousands have signed a petition to have the Border Security reality TV show cancelled 2:09

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews during Question Period on Monday defended his decision to give approval for a reality TV crew to film immigration raids.

Toews faced criticism from three different MPs, who echoed sentiments and questions put forward over the last week by lawyers, advocates, and some Canadians who were outraged that a film crew was present during the arrests of eight men on a Vancouver construction site last week.

Many of those men are now facing immigration hearings, and possibly deportation.

On Friday, CBC News learned that the approval for the TV show crew to tag along with the Canada Border Services Agency came from Toews himself, and that a representative from the Prime Minister's Office was aware of the plan.

In response to each of the questions, Toews told the MPs the same thing: The show he approved merely documents what Canada's border officers face on a daily basis.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews during Question Period on Monday defended his decision to give approval for a reality TV crew to film immigration raids. (The Canadian Press)

B.C. NDP MP Randall Garrison brought up the matter first. He said that Canadians were shocked that Toews personally approved the filming of raids by the Canada Border Services Agency.

"Mr. Speaker, this is not some episode of Cops. These are real people and real officers doing a dangerous job. Filming is exploitative and could put individuals in danger," Garrison said. "How could the minister be so reckless? Will he take responsibility and put an immediate end to this dangerous and offensive PR stunt?"

Three lines, three times

In response, Toews read a prepared statement.

"This show is about the situations faced daily by our front-line border officers. The privacy of individuals is protected at all times; however, it is important to remember that illegal immigrants cost law-abiding Canadian taxpayers millions of dollars each year and thousands of jobs," Toews said. "We expect the CBSA to enforce Canada's immigration laws by removing individuals who take advantage of Canada's generous immigration system by jumping the queue."

Quebec NDP MP Rosane Doré Lefebvre, speaking in French, then said the minister has no consideration for individuals who put their lives in danger and decide to flee their country, and that he should think before making a spectacle of their situations.

She said that reducing the work of Canada's border services officers to mere entertainment is unacceptable, and she asked: How much is this costing the border services agency?

Toews repeated the same statement, in English.

Lastly, Manitoba Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux accused the Prime Minister of using government resources in order to promote an anti-immigrant agenda. He said that turning the CBSA into a film production agency for a reality program showed a "poor lack of judgment." He said the show exposed the government to committing privacy law violations, exploiting immigrant files, and compromising the CBSA's ability to focus on public safety.

He asked the government to commit to ending the co-operative agreement with the Border Security reality show.

Again, Toews read from the same prepared statement, making no indication that the filming of CBSA immigration stings for a television show would cease.

10,000 people sign online petition

Diana Thompson’s husband, Tulio Renan Aviles Hernandes, has been in custody since he was arrested at the construction site last week. He is scheduled to face the Immigration and Refugee Board on Thursday.

Thompson said she expects he will be deported back to his native Honduras soon after that.

"It's hard to think about until when the moment comes," she said on Monday. "I'll try to take it day by day."

Thompson admits Hernandes was working illegally at the construction site but says she doesn't see why his life should be filmed for a television show.

"It's just very tasteless of them to want to air something like this," she said. "It's sickening."

Thompson started a petition on the website, calling for Border Security to be cancelled.

On Monday afternoon, more than 10,000 people had signed it.

Jordy Gold, Canadian campaigns director at Change.Org said the petition has the potential to make an impact.

Earlier this year, an American reality television show called All My Babies' Mamas — featuring a rapper with 11 children by 10 different mothers —  was cancelled after more than 37,000 people signed a petition in protest.