Family members protest raids filmed for reality TV that rounded up immigrant workers

Published: March 14, 2013
Border Security: Canada's Front Line

A screenshot from reality TV series Border Security: Canada’s Front Line. Film crews from the show reportedly were in tow when Canada Border Services Agency officers raided several B.C. construction sites to round up immigrant workers. Submitted photo/National Geographic Network


An angry, chanting crowd gathered in downtown Vancouver on Thursday to protest the televised raid of immigrant workers by the Canada Border Services Agency.

Film crews with the reality/documentary series Border Security: Canada’s Front Line were on hand Wednesday as CBSA officials cracked down at a local construction job site, prompting accusations of exploitation and invasion of privacy.

“They’re making money off the fact that people are violently deported every day,” said Harsha Walia of the group No One Is Illegal. “Families are torn apart every day.”

Byron Cruz said news of the illegal-worker raids has spread like wildfire in Latin America, home to many of Vancouver’s lowest-paid construction workers.

“Families have been phoning me from Mexico asking about their loved ones,” said Cruz. “They don’t know what’s happened.”

Force Four Entertainment promised that workers were not exploited in the filming of Border Security.

“Border Security is a documentary, not a reality series,” emailed publicist Andrew Poon. “We would not sensationalize any situation for this series.

“No one is identified in the programs without their written permission.

“Even then, names are not revealed.”

Poon said CBSA and Force Four lawyers are consulted before the show makes it to air.

“Before any story appears in a program, it is vetted by CBSA and Force Four’s lawyers to ensure privacy rights are observed.”

CBSA communications advisor Faith St. John emailed Vancouver Desi to explain why the raid took place.

“While attempting to locate and arrest a previously deported person with a significant criminal history, several foreign nationals were also found to be working without proper authorization and were subsequently arrested,” read the CBSA email, which noted that no money was paid for the filming.

“CBSA has a responsibility to protect the safety and security of Canadians by locating, arresting and removing individuals who pose a threat to public safety, who are subject to an outstanding immigration arrest warrant and who are in violation of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act [IRPA] such as working without authorization.”

“In 2012 the CBSA reported 369 individuals for working without authorization, including 103 individuals in Pacific Region.”

St. John said CBSA participation in the TV series “is an opportunity to communicate Canada’s commitment to border security by increasing awareness of the CBSA and the role its officers perform to ensure public safety.

“While a film crew was present at Wednesday’s enforcement action, our officers do this on a daily basis in the absence of cameras.

“Participation in the television series is strictly voluntary. An individual’s case will not be negatively or positively impacted by their decision to participate or not.”

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