By Peter O’Neil, Vancouver Sun March 18, 2013
The Harper government refused Friday to explain why it is co-operating with a B.C.-based reality show that has obtained exclusive rights to film busts of drug smugglers and “phoney immigrants.” Criticism mounted Friday, with charges the government violated the privacy and dignity of those filmed during production of Border Security: Canada’s Front Line. Opposition MPs said it’s a misuse of tax dollars and resources, in order to promote the government’s and the Conservative party’s law-and-order agenda.
Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart plans to question the Canada Border Services Agency about how it handles privacy issues during the show’s production.
“I think it’s appalling,” said New Democratic MP Libby Davies. “People are presumed innocent until they’ve gone through due process. Having your face blasted on a reality TV show and having to sign a waiver, often under pressure, is I think a loss of a person’s rights and dignity and respect.”
Liberal MP Francis Scarpaleggia was also unimpressed. “My sense is that Canadians are not amused that the Crown is being used to generate sensationalist TV,” he told The Vancouver Sun.
“The government is using its employees and, more indirectly, the broadcasters to promote its so-called accomplishments, and I don’t think Canadians appreciate that.”
Vancouver-based Force Four Entertainment announced in August it was co-operating with the CBSA on a reality show modelled on an Australian production. The show, which premiered in September, was produced for Shaw Media’s National Geographic channel.
Border Security has been largely under the radar until media coverage in B.C. of a raid on a Vancouver construction site Wednesday. CBSA agents were hunting for a foreign national with a criminal past but ended up arresting undocumented migrant workers.
CBSA confirmed a Border Security crew filmed the bust.
On Friday, Public Security Minister Vic Toews, who is responsible for the CBSA, refused an interview request and ignored specific questions about the matter.
Instead, spokeswoman Julie Carmichael listed the government’s measures to fight immigration fraud and smuggling, adding that the “NDP opposed all of these measures.”
Asked to respond to the specific questions regarding matters such as ancillary costs to taxpayers due to CBSA’s involvement with Border Security, Carmichael replied: “My response to you stands.”
Simon Fraser University criminologist Neil Boyd said Friday that no one is questioning the government should be going after undocumented migrant workers.
“What’s offensive about this approach is that it attempts to make entertainment out of the embarrassment and misery of these individuals.”
Force Four publicist Andrew Poon responded to criticism Friday by re-releasing a statement issued by the company Thursday. It stressed that no one appears on the program without their written consent, and “even then, names are not revealed.” All Canadian privacy laws are followed, according to the statement.
CBSA spokeswoman Faith St. John also issued a statement, stressing that privacy laws are being respected as those filmed must sign a consent form before their image can be used.
Both MPs questioned whether an illegal migrant would be in a position to refuse when they are in the midst of a bust and a consent form is handed to them. “They probably feel intimidated, and may think, ‘gee, if I cooperate maybe they’ll let me stay,’” Scarpaleggia said.
Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/entertainment/Harper+government+immigration+raid+filmed+crew+with+video/8109336/story.html#ixzz2OV9bkqPr