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Council sees disclosure of immigration status by transit police as violation of international law

The Council of Canadians supports the Transportation not Deportation campaign which demanded the termination of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Transit Police in Vancouver and the Canada Border Security Agency (CBSA).

Our support for this campaign stems from the death of Lucia Jimenez. In December 2013, Transit Police boarded a SkyTrain public transit car. They stopped Jimenez, a 42-year-old hotel worker and undocumented migrant from Mexico, because she couldn’t provide proof of payment. The Transit Police questioned her and then transferred her to the CBSA. Three weeks later, while in detention at the Vancouver International Airport awaiting deportation, she hung herself. She died eight days later in a Vancouver hospital.

As such, we celebrated the decision made by the Transit Police last month to stop turning people over to the CBSA in the course of fare checks.

We now join Transportation not Deportation in calling for no collaboration and information-sharing between the Transit Police and the CBSA. We believe that the Transit Police should not send any information, including personal information, contact information or personal identity information to the CBSA in that this would put people at risk of being detained later by the border security agency. As we have repeatedly stated, public transportation is not a border checkpoint.

In 2008, the Toronto Police Services Board’s Immigration Legal Committee stated, “Not only is there no duty to disclose, but a practice of regular disclosure of immigration status by police is likely contrary to statutory, constitutional and international law.” This would also be in keeping with the February 2013 decision by Toronto city council to adopt a formal policy allowing undocumented migrants to access city services regardless of their immigration status. They affirmed that non-status residents should be able to access city services – such as parks and recreation, public health, libraries, community housing and emergency services – without fear of being turned over to the CBSA for detention and deportation.

We recently wrote to the Transit Police outlining our position on this and are awaiting their response.

Further reading
Council of Canadians tells Transit Police Board that public transit is not a border checkpoint (February 27, 2015 blog)
WIN! Transit Police terminate agreement with Canada Border Services Agency (February 21, 2015 blog)
Council of Canadians endorses Transportation not Deportation campaign (January 6, 2015 blog)