By TOM GODFREY
City Council has sided with anti-carding activists and passed a motion calling on Toronto Police to end the “status checks” of residents suspected of not having immigration status in Canada.
A rally was held last week outside police headquarters by members of several advocacy groups that are calling for an end of racial profiling and street checks being conducted by police against Black and brown-skinned youth.
The groups claim Toronto officers call immigration enforcement officers at least 100 times weekly to obtain status checks of suspects. They said Toronto Police makes the most calls annually to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).
Karl Gardner, of No One is Illegal-Toronto, has accused police of continuing to do the work of the CBSA by calling them for information and help.
“This practice of checking people’s immigration status based on mere ‘suspicion’ of non-citizenship relies heavily on racist views that associate Black and other racialized people as not being from here, and hence, criminal,” Gardner said in a news release. “We are here today to send a clear message to the Toronto Police that they cannot continue to terrorize our communities with impunity.”
The group alleges the calls made by police to the CBSA are in violation of Toronto’s Sanctuary City policy, which bans questions about a person’s immigration status.
The accusations prompted City Council to unanimously pass a motion calling for the force to end their collaboration with immigration enforcement agents.
The motion on December 10 asked Chief Mark Saunders to consider expanding the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” guidelines from victims and witnesses to include all persons having encounters with police unless there is a warrant outstanding for the suspect.
Councillors are also seeking a review of the “Don’t Tell” component to prohibit immigration information of persons from being shared with the CBSA and other federal officials unless related to a criminal offence.
Council wants a revision of the City’s Access TO website to delete “Policing Services”, which will be replaced with “Emergency Services (911)”.
The force was directed to work with the City’s offices of Social Development, Finance and Administration to clarify and articulate procedures to ensure victims and witnesses of crime will not be asked about their immigration status and that there are bona fide reasons for officers to seek the information.
Police will be required to develop policies to ensure that victims and witnesses can come forward without fear of exposing their immigration status.
Saunders was also asked to develop a protocol between the force and the CBSA regarding the sharing of personal immigration information and to provide data on the number of times a person was investigated, reported, or arrested on an offence in regards to immigration laws.
The group was among several that also attended a vigil last week to commemorate the International Day of Migrant Workers and the thousands of men who travel to Canada annually to work and will be away from their families this Christmas.
About 18,000 workers from the Caribbean, South and Central America and other countries travel here to work in Ontario agriculture and dairy farms yearly.
Members of Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW) gathered on December 18 at the downtown Memorial to Commemorate the Chinese Railroad Workers in Canada and join allies around the world for a minute of reflection.
J4MW spokesman, Chris Ramsaroop, said migrant workers today “endure perilous and precarious conditions similar to the Chinese railroad workers who helped to build this country.
“We continue to deny migrant workers their place as equal members of our society,” Ramsaroop told Share. “Without changes we are destined to repeat the errors of history.”
Between 1881 and 1884, as many as 17,000 Chinese men came to BC to work as labourers on the Canadian Pacific Railway. The Chinese workers worked for $1.00 a day, and from this they still had to pay for their food, camping and cooking gear.
White workers did not have to pay for these things even though they were paid more money than the Chinese, who were given the most back-breaking and dangerous work.