Mayor Gregor Robertson describes reality show filming Vancouver immigration raids as “disturbing”

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson has come out against a television show filming searches and arrests of immigrants in the city.

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“I’m very concerned about the CBSA [Canada Border Services Agency] raid that took place in conjunction with a reality tv show,” read an email attributed to the mayor. “It’s disturbing to see that kind of media exploitation take place—that personal suffering shouldn’t be treated as entertainment. Even if people have not come here legally, they deserve to be treated with basic dignity.”

On Wednesday (March 13), CBSA members conducted raids on at least three construction sites, arresting and detaining people of varying immigration status. The officers were accompanied by camera crews filming a documentary series for National Geographic Channel.

According to a National Geographic website, the network is working with CBSA to produce a documentary program called BORDER SECURITY: Canada’s Front Line.

Critics argue that the program exploits immigrants’ misfortunes. The show’s producers maintain that their cameras follow the daily activities of CBSA officials and portray those events with accuracy.

News of the television show’s involvement in Wednesdays’ CBSA operation sparked some public backlash. A protest attended by roughly 80 people took place outside a Citizenship and Immigration office in Vancouver on Thursday (March 14). And an online petition calling for the show’s cancellation received more than 4,000 signatures in less than 24 hours.

Toulio Renan Aviles Hernandez (right) was arrested in an immigration raid recorded by a reality television show. He is pictured here with his wife, Diana Thomson, who was born in British Columbia.

Diana Thomson, that petition’s creator and the wife of one of the men detained in the raids, told the Straight that “it felt unreal” to learn that a camera crew was present for her husband’s arrest.

“I was just informed that my husband was picked up,” she said in a telephone interview. “And then to come home later that night, to read that [his arrest was filmed for television], it was very tasteless and disgusting, that they wanted to tape that and make a reality show out of it.”

Toulio Renan Aviles Hernandez immigrated to Canada from Honduras and was in the process of applying for Canadian citizenship through a sponsorship application, Thomson said. She recounted that the two were legally married in November 2012, and that Aviles Hernandez was helping care for her daughter from a prior relationship.

“This is a really tough situation for me, my daughter, and my family,” she said. “If this [television program] was to air, it would make the situation a lot harder for us, to see what he had to go through.”

Thomson, who was born and raised in British Columbia, added that the experience has given her an understanding of how difficult it is for many immigrants to relocate to Canada, even if they have family already in the country.

The television show is produced by Force Four Entertainment, a Vancouver-based company. A representative could not be reached for comment.

In a March 14 statement published on Facebook, Force Four states that the March 13 raids “occurred as we were documenting the day-to-day activities of the CBSA's Inland Enforcement team and were in no way planned or staged.” It continues: “We would not sensationalize any situation for this series. Border Security is a documentary, not a reality series."

The message claims that Force Four receives people’s consent to film before a camera is put on them.

Mayor Robertson’s email emphasized that there are services available for people new to Canada. Those include SUCCESS, MOSAIC, the Immigrant Services Society of BC, and the Vancouver Association for Survivors of Torture.

Comments (29) Add New Comment
bcBORNandRAISED
illegal immigration isnt just an american problem and people need to be informed.
Rating: -10
Disgraceful Production
It's hardly fair or decent to approach people who are under duress, and asking them to sign a "release". Force Four Entertainment needs to recalibrate its sense of entertainment.
Rating: +31
true north strong and free
Force Four Entertainment might have a more revealing documentary with more reality impact on what's going wrong in Canada by going to the source of Canadian problems.

Force Four Entertainment could document the day-to-day activities of the Senate and Parliament in Ottawa ensuring their cameras follow the daily activities of all levels of government officials and portray those events with accuracy, as Canadians are stripped of our Canadian Constitution by the Harper government, and assure the Canadian people that these omnibus bills were in no way planned or staged.

There you were have a documentary that would dare to go where no man has gone before. Now that would be more disturbing on all levels.
Rating: +42
dk
First it was side arms like our friends to the south and now a sleezy T.V. show. Sounds more like a Harper show wanting to be more American. Too bad we just didn't stay true Canadian and treat everyone one with respect.
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Rating: +15
Concerned Canadian Citizen .. CCC
I wonder if the documentary will caputure positive stories ... I would sure like to hope, there are successful immigration stories to be told. I hope the people get to see the compassionate and fair side of Border Crossing Officials.
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Rating: +4
RealityCheck
The censorship of documentarians the Mayor is calling for is far more disturbing than anything that occurred here. They recorded law officers enforcing the law by arresting people breaking the law.

There is absolutely nothing illegal or unethical that the documentarians from Fource Four did here. However, what Gregor Robertson is calling for is both illegal, and the suppression of basic rights to freedom of expression.
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Rating: -4
Shane Matthews
Robertson has nothing more substantial to remark upon concerning this than his own feelings? Well, that's...typical.

DP, criminals have no right to complain on grounds of either fairness or decency. They've already demonstrated they have respect for neither.

TrueNorth, the fact that there are weightier matters abroad than illegal immigration is not grounds for not covering illegal immigration.

DK, bigotry is so 19th century. That includes bigotry against Americans. We haven't fought with them for over 200 years, and we won. So get over it, already. There's more to determining whether something is right or wrong than simply asking if the Americans are doing it. They breathe oxygen; does that mean we should stop?

CCC, expecting this show to document successful legal immigrants is like expecting "To Serve and Protect" to document law-abiding churchgoers.
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Rating: -9
Get Real
Robertson, nothing wrong with a TV raid of imported workers in Vancouver. This is what your city looks like. The law must be followed and don't take jobs from Canadians.
Rating: -15
Andrew
Mayor Robertson's policies are keeping housing as unaffordable in Vancouver as possible. This puts undue hardship on recent immigrants and migrant workers. To work for social justice you need housing that doesn't take up more than 30% of your income. Vancouver has a long, long way to go...
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Rating: +17
Invisible Hand
This type of 'reality show' is definitely in bad taste but the key message is that new immigrants (non Canadian citizens) must follow employment laws in Canada or face deportation and/or penalties.
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Rating: +23
Orson B. Jective
Ahh. Leave it to bad television and the Straight comments section to draw out the nationalist law-and-order dbags in full force and make Gregor Robertson look even semi-sympathetic for once.
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Rating: +2
Martin Dunphy
Documentarians??
Tee-hee
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Rating: +3
BikerCK
"They recorded law officers enforcing the law by arresting people breaking the law."

I note that the employer was not taken into custody and as yet I have not heard that they are facing any action. If highlighting this problem is truly a goal, why not show a white collar criminal being cuffed and taken away? While this might not be the resp. of CBSA, a good 'documentary' will present the important details that aren't a part of brief news items. Further, It would probably have a bigger impact -- by curtailing demand for undocumented workers.

These guys are just trying to get by. It's the employers who are making a conscious choice about who they hire.
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Rating: +32
No Vision
Mayor Gregor is a twat. He is all talk and no action. He only cares about developers.
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Rating: +23
MarkFornataro
Why doesn't this National Geographic bunch document Con. cabinet ministers buying orange juice at $20 a glass on the taxpayers dime; Con. Senators -who are skirting residency rules-cashing their big pay cheques on the taxpayers dime, and then show the Con. cabinet minister signing the permission for the CBSA to harass immigrants on camera.
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Rating: -5
dirk
how come no one is arguing for those who work in the tv/film industry and their right to earn a living?

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Rating: -14
PJ
RE dk,True north; Regarding the slander on Harper.what has your LIB,NDP.gov. done for you,beside put BC in a big hole of debt,the side shows they both put on make gov look like loony toons only a lot more expensive.I dont see Harper in the credits of this show ,AND was it okd by the BC gov,NDP. to be fillmed? ILLEGAL is stil against the law and should be deported and the people that hire them should be fined ,or jailed as they are also breaking the law and probably abusing these illegals.
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Rating: -13
rr
Reality Check - you are out to lunch pal. There is something very morally wrong and voyeuristic about opening to the public something as traumatic as this. Do not forget for a moment that it is but a sheer fluke of circumstance, the odds of which are minuscule, that you and i are lucky enough to be in Canada.

This type of television is sickening
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Rating: +1
bc_billymuir
a new mayor crossed the border and he said he could be the mayor of vancouver for 20,000 a year with zero extras,no dental, medical or pension sorry Robertson sad to here you screaming at someone elses misfortune.
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Rating: +1
Peter
This film company is a BC outfit so if the mayor and MPs dont like it close it down.
O ya they had to get a licence to film this in the first place fom the gov.who OKD it so now what is the problm? election time get your name out there
Still though illegal people are pray to the unethical underground work force,Fine the employers and either deport ,or make the workers legal.
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Rating: +5

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