Editorial note: This article has been updated to clarify the role of the CBSA with regards to law enforcement.
After an alleged spree of ID checks by immigration officers, migrant advocates are reiterating their worries over what some are calling the unchecked power of a “wild west” border agency.
According to CityNews, the most recent complaints follows the protests of one Toronto woman whose father was stopped after buying cigarettes.
Two people, dressed in dark jackets, were identifying themselves as immigration officers. They approached the woman’s father and accused him of lying about his immigration status, even after he had shown the officers his ID.
The self-identified officers only let the dark-skinned man go after saying he did not “look Portuguese.” Yet, the two officials continued to approach other people of colour—apparently taking one elderly woman into their car after she could not produce documentation.
The Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) confirmed officers were in the area at the time. However, they would not comment or disclose information on the officers purpose or actions that day since it is an ongoing investigation.
According to CBSA officials, they do not conduct random street checks but enforce the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
“We investigate IRPA contraventions, keep inadmissible persons from entering Canada and remove those deemed inadmissible from Canada,” Senior Spokesperson Rebecca Purdy told The Post Millennial.
In a tweet by Chantel Desloges, a Toronto lawyer specializing in Immigration and Refugee law, she commented that “random checks are illegal.”
“Other than at a port of entry or in the course of processing an immigration/visa application you’ve initiated, CBSA officers need a WARRANT to question you … Don’t give in to bullying.”
In a statement to CityNews, Justice for Migrant Workers organizer Chris Ramsaroop said “from our experience in rural settings like Southwestern Ontario, the Windsor-Essex area, we’ve confirmed Canadian Border Services has undertaken similar types of racial profiling checks,”
Another Torontonian working with Migrant Workers Alliance for Change commented, “the fact of the matter is, the CBSA is like the wild west; immigration enforcement runs amok, they target people, jail them forever, and then no one is controlling them.”
Historically, efforts have been undertaken after previous scandals rocked the Canadian border services. Attempts to erect an independent oversight body over the only public agency without one, were undermined when a bill passed by the federal Liberals failed in the Senate last month.
“These stops aren’t random. They’re arbitrary. They’re all too consistent with racial profiling,” tweeted Toronto lawyer Anthony Morgan.
“As we learned from the fight against carding, confusing “random” for “arbitrary” delays abolishing the practice.”