Vancouver police made 183 queries to federal immigration authorities during an eight-month period ending May 23, 2019.
That’s an average of almost 23 per month, based on a report to the police board chaired by city mayor Kennedy Stewart.
According to the police report, queries directed to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) involved undocumented migrants as well as those with legal immigration status. Of the 183 requests for information, 87 percent—or 159 of them—were regarding people who were the subjects of complaints or suspects in police investigations.
Thirty-six people were detained under the federal Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) as a result of the queries.
For context, the report’s author, Drazen Manojlovic—director of the planning, research, and audit section of the Vancouver Police Department—noted that the VPD arrested about 10,000 people in the same eight-month period.
Manojlovic pointed out that queries made to CBSA accounted for 0.1 percent of the total arrests during that time, while the IRPA detentions corresponded to 0.02 percent.
“These results support the VPD’s publicly-stated position that enforcing IRPA is not an organizational priority,” Manojlovic wrote.
Of the 183 queries, 32 were about persons reported missing and CBSA was contacted as part of efforts to locate them.
Manojlovic noted that there was only one case when the VPD got in touch with CBSA about someone who was a victim, witness, or complainant.
“In this lone instance, a victim wished to return to her home country and, in concert with her nation’s consulate, the CBSA was contacted to facilitate this process,” Manojlovic related.
Manojlovic wrote the report to update the board about the VPD’s access to police services without fear policy, which the board approved in July 2018. The guidelines provide that police are to neither ask for nor disclose the immigration status of a person who seeks help from them.
The policy was intended for victims, witnesses, and complainants.
Byron Cruz is with Sanctuary Health, a group that helps undocumented migrants access health-care services. Cruz claimed that based on what he and his group are hearing, people without legal immigration status do not trust the police even though the VPD has its access without fear policy.
“It just created a false expectation that people were safe,” Cruz told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.
According to Cruz, a common experience is that migrants are asked to produce their passports when they come in contact with the police. “They’re just a nice title, but what happens is totally the opposite,” Cruz said about the policy.
Following the police board’s direction, Manojlovic recalled that the VPD has consulted community organizations about the guidelines. According to Manojlovic, there was a suggestion that the access without fear guidelines should be “expanded to include people who VPD officers are investigating”.
However, Manojlovic stated that the VPD views that measure as “detrimental to its policing and public safety mandate”.
“While the VPD will assist victims, witnesses, and complainants who are undocumented migrants,” Manojlovic wrote, “the VPD is not agreeable to disassociating with CBSA, particularly when it comes to individuals who are being investigated for an offence.”
The report is included in the police board’s agenda for Thursday (July 18).