A complaint into the rounding up of 21 migrants by border agents working with the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and Ministry of Transportation agents will likely be filed this week to the Ombudsman of Ontario, activists say.
The complaint is being prepared by advocacy group No One is Illegal and will be handed over to Ombudsman Andre Marin, whose office looks into issues of concern affecting Ontarians.
An investigation is being demanded to determine why provincial transportation officials and the OPP were working with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to enforce federal immigration laws.
The community is outraged by the arrests of 21 workers last month in a series of traffic stops in the Jane and Finch area in which all passengers were subjected to immigration checks by the CBSA.
At least five of the workers, one with a wife and two young children in Canada, were deported in less than a week to Mexico. The others are facing removal from Canada.
Frustrated MP Andrew Cash has complained that the migrants in his Davenport riding are being profiled since those being detained are Portuguese or Hispanics.
Cash claimed some undocumented migrants were arrested by the CBSA at the Dufferin Mall and area bakeries and cafes.
Outcry from the community has forced Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca to review his polices on working with other agencies.
“Concerns have been raised and the Minister believes that an examination of protocols is appropriate at this time,” said Patrick Searle, a spokesman for Del Duca. “The Minister has asked officials to review the practices surrounding safety blitzes and our protocols for working with traffic safety partners moving forward.”
Searle said Ministry of Transportation Ontario (MTO) officials have worked with other agencies in enforcement initiatives in which trucks are assessed for load and vehicle safety.
“The MTO organizes commercial motor vehicle enforcement initiatives on a regular basis across Ontario to ensure our roads stay among the safest in North America,” he told Share in an email.
Searle said this is the first time the CBSA has worked with his officials to conduct safety checks.
Critics have said the Ministry should not be in the immigration enforcement business.
Premier Kathleen Wynne was also questioned about the policy by New Democrat MPP Teresa Armstrong.
The Premier was blasted by the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) which is calling for a public inquiry into the sweeps.
OFL president Sid Ryan said the targeting of these workers is a form of racial profiling.
“We need to provide everyone with a pathway to citizenship so they’re not in an undocumented class,” he said.
Toronto human rights lawyer, Lorne Waldman, said the CBSA is abusing its powers.
“In Canada no official has the right to stop someone and ask about their status unless they have a reasonable belief of a breach,” he said.
No One is Illegal has launched an online petition, now containing more than 750 signatures, calling for “an end of collusion between the CBSA and the OPP”.
The group accused Wynne of supporting the Conservatives’ anti-migrant agenda. They are asking her to stop working with the CBSA in enforcing immigration laws and to make Ontario a sanctuary province. Toronto and Hamilton are already deemed sanctuary cities, which provide a safe haven for the undocumented.