An emergency rally took place on Monday as anger escalates over the controversial arrests of undocumented workers by the Canada Border Services Agency during a commercial vehicle safety blitz last week.
On Aug. 14, the CBSA arrested 21 people for immigration violations during a joint commercial vehicle safety blitz with the Ontario Provincial Police and the Ministries of Transportation and Environment. The collaboration consisted of vehicle spot checks in northwest Toronto, around Wilson Avenue between Jane Street and Highway 400.
CBSA told CBC News that it arrested 21 people who were "in violation of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.”
Advocates are outraged that the arrests were conducted during a vehicle safety check. Many of the people arrested were undocumented day-labourers and were on their way to work when they were stopped for what appeared to be a routine vehicle check, others have said they were arrested at coffee shops.
Some arrestees have claimed they were coerced into providing identification.
"I told her (the arresting officer) I am not driving, why are you asking for my ID? She kept forcing me so eventually I had to give it to her," said Andres, who used only his first name, and is currently in immigration detention.
“It's clear that these raids are relying on racial profiling to make these immigration related arrests. As such the legality of the raids is extremely questionable," said Macdonald Scott, immigration consultant at Carranza LLP.
No One Is Illegal, a grassroots advocacy group for migrant justice, said that many of the detained were asked to sign documents waiving their rights, which were not fully translated. Five people are facing deportation on Tuesday morning, said No One Is Illegal spokesperson Syed Hussan.
“This is an outrage,” said Hussan, “Why is immigration enforcement stopping people from going to work and tearing them away from their families? This is about spreading fear and forcing hundreds of thousands of vulnerable undocumented people to work deeper in the shadows just to be able to eat.”
Geraldine Ortiz, family member of a man detained during the raid, said her brother-in-law was waiting to get his papers in order just before the arrest.
“We are hopeful that he will get out, but so many families are frightened right now,” she said, “While visiting him at the detention centre, I saw a small girl speaking on the phone to her father through the glass. They were both crying. This is just so wrong.”
Most the people arrested are now being held in indefinite immigration detention, which was recently heavily criticized by the United Nations. The United Nations stated that Canada’s official policy of indefinite incarnation is a human rights violation.
Today’s rally and a petition urge the Ontario government to prevent provincial authorities from collaborating with federal immigration enforcement.
Miriam Katawazi is a fourth-year journalism and human rights student at Carleton University and rabble's news intern. She has a strong passion for human rights and social justice in Canada and across the world. Her writing focuses on health, labour, education and human rights beats.
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