Police chief kills dont tell immigration policy
By Allison Hanes, National Post
Posted: November 20, 2008, 6:52 PM by Rob Roberts
Police Chief Bill Blair today convinced the Toronto Police Services Board to kill a proposal that would have prohibited his officers from telling federal authorities if they suspect immigration law violations.
Toronto Police already have a dont ask policy on immigration status in family abuse cases, and immigrant advocates had hoped to add a dont tell component.
But the police board yesterday disbanded the committee studying the issue, burying activists hopes, after Chief Blair said officers simply cannot turn a blind eye to potential infractions of the immigration and refugee act.
We have to act both morally and within the rule of law. Weve gone I think as far as we can within Canadian law, he said. I cant and I wont issue an unlawful order. In fact you may be asking me to break the law.
Board chair Alok Mukherjee said continuing the consultation would have been pointless in the face of Chief Blairs insistence.
The easiest thing is to carry on the consultation but we should not give people false expectations if on this particular topic this is the best balance we can strike, Mr. Mukherjee said.
Immigration advocates said Chief Blairs view goes against the preponderance of opinion in the legal community and he isnt a lawyer.
Mohan Mishra from No One is Illegal complained that with a sweep of the hand today weve seen the board completely disregard the opinions of dozens and dozens of organizations.
The activists said police should only be required to call in immigration authorities if a warrant has been issued for their apprehension.
Mac Scott, of the Law Union of Ontario, said the threat that other information could be passed along will further isolate and even jeopardize the lives of extremely vulnerable people who have done nothing wrong even if their immigration status hasnt been settled.
Such persons include: those whose visas have expired; those who havent filed for refugee status yet or whose claims have failed and subject to appeal; those with pending cases that havent been settled yet; those who may have been lost track of by authorities.
This kind of blatant racism cannot stand, Mr. Scott said. Im talking about the women Ive talked to who are afraid to go to shelters because theyre afraid of the police coming in to the shelters and picking them up.
Anna Rosenbluth, from the Immigration Legal Committee, said rank-and-file police dont have the expertise to distinguish when a breach of immigration laws has occurred. Realistically, Sima Zerehi, of Status Now, said the ranks of those without defined status in Canada will only continue to grow.
If the police board is saying no to providing services to those communities were going to reach a point of crisis soon, she said.
Nov 20 2008
Mr Scott from the Law Union of Ontario may not have been reported correctly – surely it is inaccurate to assert that remaining in Canada beyond the expiry of a visa without being otherwise authorised is not “doing something wrong”?
And what exactly does the condition “lost track of by authorities” translate to in terms of status in Canada under immigration law?
Nov 20 2008
And since when can a Police Authority tell a Chief of Police how to enforce the law ?
Since when can a Police Authority tell a Chief of Police which laws are to be upheld and which laws are to be ignored ?
And since when can a Police Chief instruct another officer as to when or how the officer must deal with a possible or probable infraction ?
Sombeody should read the Police Act.
Nov 21 2008
We already have rules which prevent the police from keeping racially or culturally based crime stats (as if those two things where remotely similar) and now we find we have a don't ask policy. What other insane policies does Canadian law enforcement have which prevent both citizens of Canada and legislators from having necessary information to make proper decisions?
Canadians do not have freedom of Speech as we know from the various HRC's. I suppose it follows that we also do not have the right to know.