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Toronto police urged to stop immigration ‘status checks’

November 24, 2015

By Nicholas Keung, Toronto Star |

Toronto police regularly initiate contacts with Canadian border officials to check on people’s immigration status in violation of Toronto Council’s Sanctuary City policy, a new study claims.
During an eight-month period between last November and June this year, the Toronto Police Service made 3,278 calls to Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), 83.4 per cent of the calls were for “status checks,” said the study, titled Often Asking, Always Telling, to be released Wednesday.
“The broad criterion of ‘officer suspicion’ is fertile ground for the practice of racial profiling. This is not a matter of a few exceptional circumstances of certain individual officers, but instead a systemic problem in policy,” said the study led by University of Ottawa criminology professor David Moffette.

“Given the frequency of the deeply embedded practice of racial profiling and its link to the numerous calls made . . . we must conclude that the TPS are not by any means an accessible service to black and racialized groups with precarious or no status in Toronto.”

In June 2014, Toronto Council passed recommendations to give the city’s estimated 200,000 non-status residents access to city services without fear of being turned over to border enforcement officials.

The study said the practice by the TPS contradicts the directive; it asks the city to urge TPS to develop a comprehensive “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and stop checking a resident’s immigration status during interactions or disclosing that information to their federal immigration counterparts.

TPS spokesperson Mark Pugash said the force has adopted the “don’t ask” policy, but the law has obliged officers to inform border enforcement if they become aware of an immigrant warrant against an individual in the course of their interaction.

“The conclusion (the researchers) reached mystified me. The report is long on insults and accusations but short on evidence-based conclusions,” said Pugash, who has directed staff to look into the study’s data.

According to the 48-page report, based on data obtained under an access to information request to the border agency, CBSA received 10,700 calls from all Canadian law enforcement and transit agencies during the eight months — including 4,392 from Greater Toronto police authorities.
With 3,278 calls, the TPS made more requests to CBSA’s Warrant Response System — which allows law-enforcement authorities to inquire if a person of interest faces any outstanding immigration warrants — than the RCMP (1,197) and the combined total from police services in Montreal, Quebec City, Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.

Overall, 72 per cent of the calls were listed for “status checks,” with the rest under warrant inquiry and previously-deported-person inquiry, as well as photo and fingerprints requests.

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