BRITISH COLUMBIA

Transit Police and CBSA should stop all information sharing: groups

02/27/2015 03:06 EST | Updated 04/29/2015 05:59 EDT
VANCOUVER - Human rights groups are calling on Metro Vancouver's Transit Police to reassure migrants that officers will not share their information with the Canada Border Service Agency.

Transit Police announced last week that it would no longer arrest migrants for the CBSA unless they were wanted on an outstanding warrant.

The decision followed the December 2013 death of Lucia Vega Jimenez, a Mexican woman who hanged herself in a CBSA holding facility after Transit Police stopped her for fare evasion.

Harsha Walia of Transportation Not Deportation said the recent decision by Transit Police is a good step forward, but migrants still don't feel safe using public transit.

"Migrants are living in fear of accessing transit, particularly in light of Lucia Vega Jimenez's death," she said. "Public transit should not be a border checkpoint, and Transit Police should not be doing the job of the federal immigration authority."

She said Transit Police should make a public promise that its officers will not share migrants' personal information with CBSA in any circumstance. She's also calling for officers to accept a broader range of identification including birth certificates or photo ID from any country.

Walia was joined by other groups including Mexicans Living in Vancouver and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association on Friday to call for changes to how Transit Police deal with migrants.

Laura Track, a lawyer with the BCCLA, said her organization wants a guarantee that transit officers would not be sharing information such as migrants' addresses with border agents later on.

"Whether the enforcement is happening in that moment, or it's happening later on because information is being passed on to CBSA, the impact is the same for the undocumented person," she said.

Transit Police spokeswoman Anne Drennan said the new policy was issued in writing at a police board meeting on Friday.

Officers will now only share information with the border agency when an undocumented migrant is arrested for a criminal offence, or when a supervising officer decides there is no other way to identify an individual, she said.

Drennan added that transit police will no longer ask victims or witnesses of crimes about their immigration status.

"We think this is where community policing is heading. We believe that everybody deserves the protection of police," she said. "We think the time is right for this and we've been discussing it for a long time."