Lawyer questions if Border Security TV show is really ‘documentary’

Posted by admin on Mar 28th, 2013

By Kate Webb Metro

A lawyer representing six men detained in a Vancouver immigration raid that was filmed by the TV show Border Security two weeks ago is questioning the production company’s characterization of the show as a documentary series. Zool Suleman said Thursday he has contacted the federal ministry responsible for approving the show and the production company, Force Four Entertainment, asking that they apologize for subjecting his clients to “unwarranted public scrutiny.”

Suleman said his clients dispute Force Four’s claim that it obtained verbal permission from them before filming their arrests at an East Vancouver construction site on March 13.

He also alleged one of his clients was handed a written release to sign by a Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) agent.

“What is a CBSA officer doing handing a release on behalf of a private production company while our clients are detained in jail, seeking permission?” he asked, adding his clients were intimidated by the officers’ badges and weapons.

“…It boggles the mind and common sense that the same person detaining you and has power over your liberty is the same person that can then politely ask you, voluntarily and on an even playing field, for you to release to them images of yourself for a TV show that will then be broadcast all over the world.”

Flanked by representatives from Amnesty International and the BC Civil Liberties Association, the latter of which filed a complaint to the federal privacy commissioner last week, Suleman questioned whether the show is really concerned with portraying the facts.

While he was adamant the footage of the raid should never see the light of day, he noted that during a detention review a member of the immigration and refugee board found that his clients’ Charter rights had been breached when they were denied access to legal counsel.

“If they’re actually some kind of documentary outfit — this is not a reality show, that the truth has been portrayed — the truth is that the constitutional rights of my clients were breached, and it would be interesting to see if that ever makes it out, in any production that Force Four creates out of this episode,” he said.

Minister for Public Safety Vic Toews, who approved the show, defended it in the House of Commons five days after the raid, arguing that “illegal immigrants cost law-abiding Canadian taxpayers millions of dollars each year and thousands of jobs.”

But Amnesty International spokesman Don Wright said broadcasting arrests of people who may be pursuing refugee claims or other permissions to stay in the country could put their lives in danger if they are deported, as two of them already have been.

An online petition calling for the show’s cancellation has garnered more than 22,000 signatures.

Force Four Entertainment said in a statement that it retains editorial independence over the show, and that it goes through five levels of legal and privacy vetting before it airs. About 30 protesters rallied outside their offices Thursday calling for an apology and the show’s cancellation.

Asked whether Minister Toews would apologize, a spokeswoman said via email the CBSA “remains committed to public awareness efforts such as Border Security: Canada’s Frontline.”

“There are appropriate procedures in place to ensure that the privacy of individuals is not compromised — these continue to be enforced in our daily functions,” she wrote.

“At no time has the CBSA divulged the names, photos, circumstances and/or other personal information of the persons arrested on March 13, 2013.”

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