Border Security is tabloid television at its worst

Posted by admin on Mar 15th, 2013

By Ian Mulgrew, Vancouver Sun columnist March 15, 2013

Imagine a swarm of black SUVs swooping down Victoria Drive like a scene from a Bourne movie to arrest a bunch of working guys with hammers. We can’t stop gangsters murdering each other and dumping bodies in Surrey but we got those Latin American carpenters illegally framing condos? It was bad enough when we had reality TV shows about cops chasing small-time drug offenders down alleys in their underwear. Now we’ve got Canadian border security agents with cameras in tow arresting a bunch of construction workers as if they were Hells Angels.

These arrests were filmed for a currently airing reality show called Border Security: Canada’s Front Line.

The agency’s response to criticism about the raid?

“Individuals working illegally in Canada undermine the integrity of our immigration system,” it said in a statement late Thursday.

“While a film crew was present at yesterday’s enforcement action, our officers do this on a daily basis in the absence of cameras … Participation (by those arrested) in the television series is strictly voluntary. An individual’s case will not be negatively or positively impacted by their decision to participate or not.”

Here’s what the program’s website has to say:

“The series features exclusive access behind the scenes at the Canada Border Services Agency produced by Vancouver’s Force Four Entertainment for Shaw Media. Force Four Entertainment has gained exclusive access into the highly classified world of the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). In every episode of Border Security, cameras shadow CBSA officers as they interrogate suspicious passengers who may or may not be hiding something. Passengers react in a variety of unpredictable ways — they lie, argue, play the victim, plead ignorance and even threaten legal action. But they are no match for the investigative tactics of the CBSA officers.”

No indeed, I’ve seen the show.

Think those Spanish-speaking carpenters were wily? You haven’t seen the guy trying to get a $960 pit bull across the border claiming it was worth only $500.

“At the end of the day, we’re going to get our tax dollars,” the customs officer gravely assured viewers.

I breathed a sigh of relief.

Real Housewives of Vancouver may be reality television; Border Security is government advertorial supported by federal and provincial tax credits.

This program has no host, no balancing commentary or any journalistic saving grace — it’s tabloid television at its worst.

This is a diabolical partnership between broadcasters that need cheap programming and a Tory administration that wants free publicity for its law-and-order campaign.

Imagine the threat undervalued dogs pose to the economy.

“Throughout the episode,” the PR bumf assures us about the series, “officers question, cross-examine, inspect, pat down, swab, search and X-ray suspects and their belongings, chipping away at the holes in their stories. For viewers, it’s a wild, unpredictable ride as each passenger’s secret is finally revealed.”

Imagine a young woman coming to Canada to work two jobs — got her!

How about that California woman hiding her child’s medicine in the stroller? They got her, too.

And the fellow going to the Philippines with a suitcase of Marlboro cigarettes and canned goods. Didn’t he know the rules?

An Australian tourist with a minor criminal record on his way to meet a lover — foiled!

A British traveller without a valid work visa; three Chinese students with undeclared food items; a tourist with marijuana — slam dunk!

My god, every one of these officers deserves a Queen’s Jubilee medal.

I am reminded of arriving in Pakistan more than a decade ago watching Muslim border agents celebrate the discovery of a bottle of whisky: Allah be Praised!

Border Security makes Canada look like a Third World nation under siege.

It portrays border guards as serving on the front-line of a non-existent war.

In reality, most of them are policing returning citizens hiding cheap liquor, Americans who forgot to leave their guns at home and poor would-be immigrants, who whatever their story, deserve to be treated with respect.

The government view presented throughout this program inflates that dull but essential work by talking about phoney tourists, belligerent visitors, toys packed with heroin and weapons disguised as cellphones.

Yes, every passenger has a story that can be revealed under interrogation — usually it’s about bad airline food and a holiday, not about a skeleton in their suitcase or a bomb in their underwear.

Few of the 20,000 a day who come through Vancouver International Airport, or the thousands and thousands more who use our land crossings, are criminals, terrorists or people Canadians need to seriously worry about.

That doesn’t diminish the need to maintain border security, to regulate goods coming and going, or to prevent illegal immigration,

But let’s get rid of the Hollywood Dirty Harry image-making.

Our border staff do not need to be the Special Forces.

And it seems obvious to me that tax credits shouldn’t be available for this kind of celebrate-the-government programming.
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