When city council designated Toronto a sanctuary city in 2013, its intention was to guarantee all residents access to municipal services, regardless of citizenship status. People without legal status are often denied those services, or don’t seek them out for fear of being reported to the Canadian Border Services Agency. The fear forces vulnerable people to go without basic services such as primary health care and education.
Years before the sanctuary city effort, Toronto’s police board recognized that victims of crime, and witnesses to it, may not come forward if they feared deportation or other immigration sanctions. The force agreed that, unless it was necessary, officers would not ask about the legal status of the people they interact with. Unfortunately, police seem to be regularly violating this promise to serve and protect the most vulnerable residents.
According to a freedom of information request by the migrant advocacy group No One Is Illegal, police have been making thousands of calls to CBSA to check on the status of individuals they stop, even when a resident is not wanted under an immigration or criminal warrant. NOII interviewed residents who claim they were victims of crimes, or witnesses to criminal activity, but were reported by police to CBSA all the same.
Torontonians have long identified and railed against racial profiling and unnecessary documentation by police. Police carding, the practice of stopping and documenting residents who are not suspected of a crime, is especially heinous because it has targeted racialized groups in the city, particularly black men. Police have routinely robbed residents of their individuality and presumption of innocence by making one’s appearance a justification for stopping and questioning them.
Knia Singh, who has launched a Charter challenge against the police for being repeatedly carded and, in his view, racially profiled, says police suspected him to be a foreigner because of his black skin. Although Singh was born in Toronto, a freedom of information request about his carding interactions revealed that police had, on more than one occasion, documented Jamaica as his birthplace.
When Singh challenged an officer during one such interaction, he claims the officer asked him, “Would you like me to put you in handcuffs in the back of the cruiser, and we can call immigration to find out if you’re here legally or not?” Singh sees his treatment as a clear pattern of racial profiling. “Police seem to assume that if you're not white, you're born somewhere else, and my contact cards confirm that.”
When a resident’s lack of permanent status in Canada is an added factor, an already precarious situation becomes even worse. A man in the NOII report claims he was separated from his family by CBSA and detained for three months after helping the police with an investigation. The man, whose name was withheld from the report to protect his identity, told advocates that “if I could do it all over again, I would do it differently … if I see someone getting killed on the road, I’m not going to say nothing to the police.”
Pour lire l'article au complet : http://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2015/12/17/non-status-residents-need-police-protection-too-cole.html