Toronto police chief kills ‘don’t tell’ immigration policy

Posted by admin on Nov 20th, 2008

Allison Hanes ,  Canwest News Service, Thursday, November 20, 2008

TORONTO – Police Chief Bill Blair convinced the Toronto Police Services Board on Thursday to kill a proposal that would have prohibited his officers from telling federal authorities if they suspected immigration law violations. Toronto Police already have a “don’t ask” policy on immigration status in family abuse cases, and immigrant advocates had hoped to add a ”don’t tell” component. But the police board disbanded the committee studying the issue, burying activists’ hopes, after Blair said officers simply cannot turn a blind eye to potential infractions of immigration and refugee legislation.

 “We have to act both morally and within the rule of law. We’ve gone I think as far as we can within Canadian law,” he said. “I can’t and I won’t 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 Blair’s 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 Blair’s view goes against the preponderance of opinion in the legal community. They say police should only be required to call 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 extremely vulnerable people who have done nothing wrong even if their immigration status hasn’t been settled.

“This kind of blatant racism cannot stand,” Scott said. “I’m talking about the women I’ve talked to who are afraid to go to shelters because they’re 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 don’t have the expertise to distinguish when a breach of immigration laws has occurred.

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