MTO commercial vehicle blitz scoops up migrant...
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Aug 26, 2014  |  Vote 0    0

MTO commercial vehicle blitz scoops up migrant workers

The province is being urged to explain why it is using commercial vehicle blitzes to round up people suspected of being in the country illegally


New Democrat MPP Teresa Armstrong wants to know why the province is using roadside checks of commercial vehicles to help round up people suspected of being in the country illegally.

In a letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne, Armstrong referred to “disturbing” reports about a roadside blitz on Wilson Avenue between Jane Street and Highway 400 by the Ministry of Transportation on Aug. 14, in which mostly work vans were pulled over. Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers were on hand to question drivers and their passengers, leading to 21 immigration-related arrests.

“The objective of commercial vehicle safety blitzes (is) to . . . ensure that commercial vehicles are properly maintained and safe for the road under the provincial Highway Traffic Act — not for immigration-related interrogations, arrests and deportation,” Armstrong stated in the letter, released Tuesday.

The Star has been told that at least five people have been deported since the blitz. Those held were mostly Latin Americans and East Asians.

“This is very disturbing news. This incident undertaken by the CBSA and your ministries and agencies has understandably led to more questions than answers about what really happened and what role your government played resulting in these immigration arrests,” Armstrong stated.

Among other things, Armstrong wants to know whether her government approved the use of provincial resources in the federal operation and whether this kind of co-operation is routine.

The Ontario Provincial Police acknowledged that one officer was there but played no active role in pulling over the vehicles or the immigration operation, while the Ministry of Transportation said their only concern was the safety of the vehicles.

However, a spokesperson for Transportation Minister Steve Del Duca said it was not the first time the department had worked with the CBSA.

“MTO has previously taken part in enforcement initiatives with traffic safety partners like the OPP, the Ministry of the Environment, the CBSA, the Toronto Bylaw Office, and others. Each group has separate responsibilities,” the spokesperson said.

“We were not involved in any activities related to the undocumented workers,” he said.

The Star sent email containing a series of questions to the CBSA concerning its role in the Aug. 14 blitz but the federal agency declined to respond.

Critics say the round-up wouldn’t be possible if the MTO had not agreed to hold the blitz.

Syed Hussan, a spokesperson for No One Is Illegal, a grassroots advocacy group for migrants, asked why provincial resources are being employed in what he says amounts to “racial profiling.”

“It doesn’t make sense. Why is the provincial government and the federal government working together like this?” he said.

He said migrants who were stopped that day said they were badgered into providing identification to CBSA officers, all of whom — except one — refused to identify themselves. And Hussan says he was told they were wearing bulletproof vest identifying themselves as police.

“At its core it is racial profiling and it’s disgusting and it unacceptable,” Hussan said.

“They identified (vehicles) on the basis of people’s skin colour. They did not have warrants,” he said, noting that most of the vehicles stopped were work vans with day labourers inside.

Toronto Star

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