Border agents arrested migrant workers at an East Vancouver construction site with a camera crew in tow, says one of the workers' wives.
Officers with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) descended on a rental housing development on Victoria Drive Wednesday and arrested at least two Honduran nationals while cameras followed them, Diana Thompson told The Vancouver Sun.
Thompson said her husband, Tulio Renan Avilés Hernandez, was asked to sign a release form agreeing to be filmed, but he refused.
CBSA agents are featured in a new reality show called "Border Security: Canada's Front Line," which airs on Global TV and the National Geographic channel.
"It doesn't seem very Canadian. It's very sensationalized. I don't like it. It's just very creepy," Mindy Shepard, who was working across the street, told CBC News about seeing cameras film the arrests.
Harsha Walia, from the immigrant advocacy group, No One Is Illegal, said she was shocked the TV show would try to benefit from "the violence of detention and deportation." The group organized a protest in front of federal immigration offices in Vancouver on Thursday, calling for an end to the "American-style tactics."
Vancouver East MP Libby Davies said it was "outrageous" that a camera crew would ask a migrant worker to sign a waiver without a lawyer present, News1130 reported.
Force Four Entertainment, the production company behind the TV show, said no one is filmed without advance verbal permission. Written releases are only solicited after subjects have been warned by officers, according to a Thursday statement on Facebook. Any program is also screened by the CBSA and lawyers before it airs to check that privacy rights are protected.
Jennifer Bourke, a CBSA spokeswoman, said officers raided the construction site to locate someone "with significant criminal history" who had been deported before. During that operation, agents found several people who were working without proper permits and arrested them, she said.
Wives of at least two arrested workers admit that their husbands do not have work permits nor did they try to apply for them, CKNW reported.
The Vancouver Sun noted that some of the workers were in the process of getting permits before they were detained.
"I think it was wrong of them to ambush them for a TV program," said Canadian-born Angela Joseph, whose Honduran husband was rounded up at the job site for not having a permit to work in Canada. "They have no sympathy for families at all."
Joshua Sohn, former chair of the Canadian Bar Association's national immigration law section, said footage showing migrant workers could be risky for those seeking refugee status if they're facing persecution in their home countries.
"The thing I wonder about is whether these (raids) were orchestrated for the cameras or if they were actions that could have been taken on a regular basis," said the lawyer. "If people are all going to be rounded up, en masse, and quickly put through the immigration process."
With files from The Canadian Press