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The CBSA logo is seen during a press conference, Oct. 15, 2012 (Peter Mccabe/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
The CBSA logo is seen during a press conference, Oct. 15, 2012 (Peter Mccabe/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Filmed border agency sweep brings privacy concerns Add to ...

After being arrested in a border agency sweep of a Vancouver construction site, several men appeared Friday for detention review hearings to determine whether they would remain in custody.

For this stage of the procedure, however, there were no cameras present – unlike during the raid, which was filmed as part of a reality television series profiling the Canada Border Services Agency and has become a flash point for questions about government involvement in the program as well as privacy concerns for those who were arrested.

For Diana Thompson, whose husband Tulio Aviles Hernandez was one of those arrested, the notion of his being filmed – and subsequently asked to sign a waiver – has added disbelief and anger to the anxiety she already feels about his future.

“I’m assuming he was scared,” Ms. Thompson – asked about the raid being filmed – said on Friday, just before her husband was to appear before an Immigration and Refugee Board hearing. “And probably angry at the same time.”

Of six detention reviews that had been completed by late Friday afternoon, five resulted in detention orders being continued, meaning that the men will have their next detention reviews in seven days, on March 22.

Those decisions reflect histories that included previous deportation orders, failed refugee applications and previous brushes with the CBSA.

Before he was arrested on Wednesday, Mr. Aviles Hernandez, for example, had been turned down for refugee status and failed to show up for a scheduled interview with immigration officials in December of 2011. He is from Honduras.

“Instead, he stopped reporting, he didn’t provide address changes and he went into hiding,” IRB panel member Michael McPhalen said in explaining his decision.

“I don’t see that Mr. Aviles Hernandez is in a much different position now than when he had his interview and was told to arrange his ticket to leave Canada.”

The review hearings also provided a window into the television series, with the lawyer for one of the men arrested arguing that the presence of cameras added to a “context of intimidation” during the raid.

A CBSA employee who was part of the raid, who was called to testify during the review for Mr. Aviles Hernandez, told the hearing that he knew the incident was being filmed as part of the television series but that he wasn’t always aware what was being filmed at what time.

With questions swirling about the raid being filmed, both the CBSA and Force Four Entertainment, the company that produces the Border Security series, issued statements defending their practices.

Force Four said the incident took place while they had a camera following the CBSA as officers were seeking to arrest an individual with a criminal record who had previously been deported. On arrival, the officers discovered other people who were suspected of working illegally.

CBSA, meanwhile, said its participation in the Border Security series “is an opportunity to communicate Canada’s commitments to border security by increasing awareness of the CBSA and the role its officers perform to ensure public safety.”

The agency said participation in the series is “strictly voluntary” and that an individual’s case would not be affected by whether or not they participated.

Asked outside the hearing room what she thought about her husband’s work and immigration status becoming part of a television show, Angela Joseph described the development as “heartbreaking.” Her husband, who is also from Honduras, was one of those arrested in the raid.

“It is heartbreaking for someone to profit from two children losing their father,” said Ms. Joseph, who is the mother of two children, aged seven and two, who had not accompanied her to the hearing.

“They still don’t understand what is going on.”

Follow on Twitter: @wendy_stueck

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