Civil liberties watchdog files formal complaint against CBSA's use of Reality TV

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BCCLA Executive Director Josh Paterson.

Opposition to the Canada Border Services Agency's (CBSA) partnership with a Reality TV series, 'Border Security: Canada's Front Line,' continues to grow in the wake of last week's raids targeting migrant workers at construction sites in the Lower Mainland. 

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association issued the following statement at a press conference in Vancouver Thursday. 

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association filed a formal complaint with the federal Privacy Commissioner today on behalf of a migrant worker who had been filmed for the Canada Border Services Agency's reality television series. The complaint, brought by the BCCLA with Oscar Mata Duran, alleges that CBSA's use of a reality TV crew to record its interactions with people is illegal and that it violated Mr. Mata Duran's rights under the federal Privacy Act. Mr. Mata Duran was detained on suspicion of working in Canada without proper documentation, and was deported yesterday. The complaint was launched today at a press conference at which a broad range of civil society groups joined together in opposition to the CBSA’s decision to transform its operations into a source of commercial entertainment.

“Federal agents should not come crashing into people’s workplaces and homes with commercial TV crews filming their actions like some sort of action movie,” said Josh Paterson, Executive Director of the BC Civil Liberties Association. “That violates people’s privacy rights -- in this case, the rights of a vulnerable migrant worker -- and we think it violates Canada’s privacy law. The federal government must respect the rights of every person it deals with, regardless of their immigration status. Mr. Mata Duran has filed a complaint to the federal Privacy Commissioner alleging that the government’s use of a reality TV crew to film his arrest and interrogation was unlawful and we will pursue this complaint in his absence from Canada.”

More than an hour after Mr. Mata Duran’s interrogation in front of the TV cameras, he was asked to sign a consent form for the filming, without a full explanation of what he was signing or how the video footage would be used. The complaint sets out that Mr. Mata Duran was in CBSA detention and was afraid when he signed the form, and that he did not understand the meaning of the document. The complaint states that Mr. Mata Duran cannot be considered to have freely given his consent under the circumstances.

The complaint alleges that the collection of Mr. Mata Duran’s personal information from the apprehension and the interrogation by the CBSA’s reality TV crew violated the Privacy Act, which only permits the collection of information by government that is directly related to its operations. The purpose of the collection by the TV crew was to create for-profit entertainment, which is not the CBSA’s mandate.

Last weekend it was revealed that Conservative Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews personally signed off on the production agreement between Force Four and the Canadian border authorities. 

Earlier this week, in the House of Commons, Opposition critic Randall Garrisson called the TV program a "dangerous and reckless PR stunt."

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