Harper government is “de facto” executive producer of border security reality TV show

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      A memo and agreement between Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) and Force Four Entertainment sheds significant light on the extent to which the federal government is involved in the production of a reality television show being filmed in Vancouver.

      “The CBSA would enjoy de facto executive production authorities,” the document states, “and as such, would identify scenarios, sites and storylines, as well as provide active engagement in, as well as oversight and control of, all film shoots."

      CBSA; the TV show, Border Security: Canada’s Front Line; and Force Four Entertainment, the Vancouver company producing it, have drawn opposition for embedding cameras with CBSA officers conducting immigration raids.

      Critics argue that the program objectifies immigrants and exploits people’s misfortune. CBSA and Force Four Entertainment maintain that the TV show merely follows the daily activities of CBSA officials.

      The agreement between CBSA and Force Four Entertainment also notes that the production of Border Security requires the spending of government funds.

      “While there is no financial contribution, there is an operational cost to supporting the film shoots, participating in the editing and review process and so on,” it states. “This burden is not insignificant.”

      A number of provisions detailed in the agreement can be assumed to require CBSA staff time, and therefore taxpayers dollars. Those include:

      • The agreement stipulated that a representative of the CBSA’s communications department be present at all times a camera is rolling.
      • It is required that a CBSA-appointed escort always accompany Force Four Productions staff and contractors while on CBSA property.
      • The agreement requires that CBSA review and approve all footage intended for broadcast and, if changes are required, that revised video also be reviewed and approved for publication.
      • It’s specified that CBSA “may provide assistance to Force Four Productions in accessing CBSA facilities, staff and operations.”

      The agreement was signed by Vic Toews, Canada’s public safety minister, on June 7, 2011, and also reviewed by a “representative of the Prime Minister’s office.

      The memo attached to the agreement encourages CBSA participation, describing the TV show as a “valuable opportunity to promote important messages about Canada's commitment to border security and to give profile to the Agency as a professional and effective law enforcement organization.”

      On March 18, Toews defended the taping of the show during question period in the House of Commons.

      “This show is about the situations faced daily by our front-line border officers,” he said, reading from a prepared statement. “The privacy of individuals is protected at all times; however, it is important to remember that illegal immigrants cost law-abiding Canadian taxpayers millions of dollars each year and thousands of jobs. We expect the CBSA to enforce Canada's immigration laws by removing individuals who take advantage of Canada's generous immigration system by jumping the queue.”

      Toews refused to answer repeated requests for information about the costs of CBSA’s participation in the TV show.

      Manitoba Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux called for the production of Border Security to cease.

      Toews did not respond to that question either, and instead read from the same prepared statement.

      Border Security: Canada’s Front Line, begins its second season on National Geographic Channel on Thursday (March 21).

      You can follow Travis Lupick on Twitter at twitter.com/tlupick.




      Mar 19, 2013 at 6:11pm

      14-Point Description of Fascism

      1. Powerful and continuing expressions of Nationalism.
      2. Disdain for the importance of Human Rights.
      3. Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause.
      4. The supremacy of the military/avid militarism.
      5. Rampant Sexism.
      6. A Controlled Mass Media.
      7. Obsession with National Security.
      8. Religion and Ruling Elite tied together.
      9. Power of Corporations protected.
      10. Power of Labour suppressed/eliminated.
      11. Disdain/suppression of Intellectuals and the Arts.
      12. Obsession with crime/punishment.
      13. Rampant cronyism/corruption.
      14. Fraudulent Elections.

      How many points do you see the above list apply to just this TV program? Is there any point in the list that you haven't seen covered by the CONservatives, yet?


      Mar 19, 2013 at 6:45pm

      Demonizing the other; add it to the list of weird quasi-Republican crap that Harper's trying on for size. Is this supposed to work in Canada when even the American GOP is slowly coming to terms with the fact that their sideshow schtick is out of touch, out of date, and widely rejected as distraction and fantasy?


      Mar 19, 2013 at 7:41pm

      What is wrong with the Harper government?
      This goes beyond incompetence and misreading of Canadian values. There is something really wrong with them.


      Mar 19, 2013 at 9:05pm

      What next Vic? The Running man? Fancy yourself in Richard Dawson's role do you? Despicable!


      Mar 19, 2013 at 9:13pm

      What next Stevie? A bounty hunter to help the R.C.M.P.
      The whole thing stinks of the Harper goverment that wants to be a follower of the Bush era.


      Mar 19, 2013 at 10:20pm

      I am not a fan of Harper, but I do like the show. It sheds light on what our border gurads actually go through. we complain when customs are too tough, and then we complain when they let in a criminal or dumb ass who disrespects our society. they cant win really. i do know a few guys that do that job, and like any media, dont beleive everything you here. most of the days work for customs officials is dealing with liars, cons, and cheats trying to weasle there way into Canada, and its no easy task to deal with. when a true and real family in need comes through from some God awful place, its pretty clear. so before we judge, lets put ourselve sin there shoes. imagine letting in a rapist, theive ect... well these guys have to make those decsions to protect us.


      Mar 19, 2013 at 10:27pm

      Is this how we want to see our tax money spent? I think not! This government is out of control, with more secretive deals, non-disclosure on spending from the tough on crime Conservatives. They need to take responsibility for their own illegal and fraudulent actions! Anything else is dishonest and hypocritical.


      Mar 20, 2013 at 12:08am

      It is interesting to note that accused and admitted war criminals Dick Cheney & GW Bush were allowed to waltz in and out of Canada with the coordinated cooperation of CBSA agents, this in spite of the fact that the Attorney General, the Commissioner of the RCMP, the minister of Immigration, and local police and RCMP detachments were advised of the intended date of entry.

      These men, responsible for extrajudicial killings, crimes of aggression, and torture were deemed fit to work in Canada (paid speaking engagements), yet other world citizens who as far as we know have only committed the crime of 'working under the table', and the government is bending over backwards to humiliate & vilify them. Not the people who hired them for pittance to labour in their service, no, there is no government sponsored show about any of that. The crime minister is ruining this country under our very noses, and he must be stopped. STOP HARPER!


      Mar 20, 2013 at 1:24pm

      From yesterday's Vancouver Sun (March 19:

      Companies that hire illegal migrant workers are seldom penalized for breaking the law, say immigration specialists.

      Under Canada's Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, employers who knowingly hire workers without proper documentation can face fines of up to $50,000 and two years in jail.

      "The problem is employer sanctions are rarely applied," said Zool Suleman, an immigration lawyer with more than 20 years' experience. "There's a huge inequity in how this works."

      Unless employers have been found to routinely hire illegal workers on a wide scale or engage in other egregious conduct - such as human trafficking - they are often not pursued by Canada Border Services or Immigration Canada, Suleman said.


      Since the government sees fit to not penalize the true criminals in all of this, what is the point of these raids?

      Do It Just

      Mar 20, 2013 at 11:04pm

      A friend came home from visiting family in Mexico. He has own Canadian family here and is studying for his Cdn citizenship exam on the history of Canada, how our government works, symbols of Canada and its regions. He was met by one of these crews at the airport and accused of being a criminal - in true "cops" or "border cops" style. He was badgered under the bright camera light for far too long until they realized that his Canadian family had some clout around here. He never gave permission to be filmed and did nothing wrong!
      Where's the CRTC on allowing this heinous business to go on???