By TOM GODFREY
Immigrants are being ‘racially profiled’ by the Ontario government and Canada Border Services Agency whose officers arrested 21 people on immigration offences in a series of traffic stops in North York last week.
The early morning arrests of undocumented day workers sparked outrage and led to an emergency rally and march last Monday at noon outside two downtown Ontario government buildings.
A petition calling for changes has also been launched against the CBSA and Ontario Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne by the migrant justice group, No One is Illegal.
The workers, represented by lawyers, appeared for detention reviews at an immigration detention centre on Rexdale Blvd. earlier this week. Some were released on bonds and with strict reporting conditions. At least five of the men were expected to be deported.
The detained men are from Mexico, other Spanish speaking countries and East Asia, and were working in the construction trades. They are accused of breaching immigration laws.
“This is disgusting and shameful racial profiling, and we cannot allow this to continue,” group spokesman Syed Hussan told Share. “These people now face separation from their families, endless detention and deportation.”
He accused the Wynne government of “racially profiling immigrants” on their way to work.
The arrests occurred on August 14 as dozens of work vans were stopped “under the guise of traffic safety stops” at several intersections in the Jane and Finch area and passengers were asked for identification, group members said.
Their identity documents were then entered into police, immigration and CBSA databases that showed if there are any enforcement actions pending against them.
Hussan said a number of the detained were asked to sign documents waiving their rights that he claimed were not fully translated to them.
“As a result, at least one person faces deportation on Tuesday morning,” he told Share. “The rest are now caught in Canada’s system of indefinite detention.”
Andres, of Mexico, one of the detainees, said he hadn’t broken any laws.
“We are not there to do anything wrong,” he said. “Everyone here is a construction worker (or) painter. We were asking ourselves, why are they stopping us, we’re working, we’re not doing anything wrong.”
Chris Ramsaroop, National Organizer Justice for Migrant Workers, said the immigrants were racially profiled by police and government officials.
“The persistent efforts by authorities to intimidate, harass and racially profile migrant workers must be roundly denounced,” said Ramsaroop. “Both levels of government are using our immigration laws to criminalize precarious workers.”
He said federal and provincial officials have to be held accountable for engaging in these inhumane practices.
Jean Vecina, a lawyer for some of the workers, is accusing the OPP of acting as thugs.
“Kathleen Wynne needs to decide whether she wants OPP to act like jackbooted thugs pulling people over on the side of the road and ripping apart families,” Vecina said in a statement.
The petition, which has more than 300 signatures, is asking the Liberal government to be more transparent about arrangements between the OPP and CBSA.
Ironically, Toronto is the first Canadian city to adopt a “sanctuary city” policy, which means city services will be made available to undocumented residents without fear of harassment from immigration authorities.
Hamilton followed soon after and other cities across Canada are considering it. More than 20 U.S. states now have some form of sanctuary policy protecting undocumented immigrants.
The petition is available at http://chn.ge/lbFvON.