Toews defends controversial show
VANCOUVER—Illegal immigrants take advantage of Canadian taxpayers —not the other way around, Public Safety minister Vic Toews told critics in Parliament as he defended the use of reality TV cameras on immigrant raids.
The federal government is facing criticism on several fronts for its approval of the TV show focusing on border security after camera crews filmed the arrest of several men in Vancouver last week by officers with Canada Border Services Agency.
“It is important to remember that illegal immigrants cost law-abiding Canadian taxpayers tens of millions of dollars per year and it costs our constituents thousands of jobs,” he noted.
“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 added.
Federal access to information documents show Toews approved a demo reel by Force Four Entertainment and also allowed the Canada Border Services Agency to enter into talks for a full series of programs for broadcast in Canada.
The documents were requested by Helesia Luke, a communications worker who wanted to know more after she heard about the raids.
Luke, who’s familiar with production company contracts after working in the entertainment industry, said the 11-page contract seemed short.
She added she’s asked for more information because she believes other documents might clarify the kind of message the CBSA is trying convey with the program.
“Do they really want to send a message that people arriving at the border are going to be ambushed by a camera crew because they didn’t know they weren’t supposed to bring apples across the border?” Luke wondered.
During Question Period yesterday, NDP public safety critic Randall Garrison said Canadians across the country are shocked about the government’s approval of the idea, adding the raids aren’t some episode of “Cops.”
“These are real people and real officers doing a dangerous job,” noted Garrison, who called the show a “dangerous and reckless PR stunt.”
“Filming is exploitative and can put individuals in danger.”
Descriptions for 13 episodes of “Border Security: Canada’s Front Line” on the National Geographic channel include “Officers wonder why a Korean tourist would bring his CV and school diplomas on a vacation” and “An injured American may be too ill to enter Canada.”
Some episodes in the series already have aired and the National Geographic website promotes the program by saying: ‘Border Security,’ the show that will make you think twice the next time you considering hiding anything in your luggage.
Joshua Labove, a Ph.D candidate at Simon Fraser University who specializes in border issues, said the reality show is incredibly exploitative.
“You’re saying to someone, ‘Hello, I am here to legally remove you from the country but would you mind signing this release so I can show your face on Canadian television?’”
No one with CBSA returned a request for an interview yesterday.