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“Don’t ask, don’t tell” makes a mockery of our immigration laws

February 2017

Re:  Will police not tell (Toronto Sun, 27 February 2017):

Toronto City Council are close to overstepping their authority by asking the police to consider expanding the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, a part of the “Sanctuary City” philosophy, and I hope Chief Mark Saunders tells them as much when he reports to the police services board at their March meeting.

As reported in The Toronto Sun, “Saunders was asked by council a year ago to report back on expanding the “don’t ask, don’t tell” philosophy deeper into the service, after complaints undocumented individuals were afraid to access police services for fear they’d be turned over to immigration officials and deported.”

Firstly, Toronto Council, through the police services board who directly oversee the police, have no authority to order Chief Saunders not to enforce immigration legislation.

While the police services board “may give orders and directions to the chief of police” under Section 31 (3) of the Police Services Act, Section 31 (4) specifically states, “the board shall not direct the chief of police with respect to specific operational decisions or with respect to the day-to-day operation of the police force.”

At this point it’s still only a request, but if Chief Saunders refuses to comply, does the issue end there?  By even making this request, council is putting the Chief in the awkward position of either putting him in conflict with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and immigration law or being painted as the “bad-guy” in the court of public opinion for enforcing the law.

Secondly, police have an obligation to uphold the law, regardless of whether it goes contrary to political will; regardless whether it violates the city’s “Sanctuary City” policy.  The idea of willfully ignoring something as important as the Immigration Act makes a mockery of our laws in general.  This isn’t the same as a cop letting you off on that speeding ticket.

In a law-abiding society, we can’t pick and choose which laws we like and which ones we don’t.  Try ignoring your obligations under the Income Tax Act and see how that works out for you.

If someone is afraid to report a crime to the police for fear that they will be turned over to the CBSA, then maybe they shouldn’t be in Canada illegally in the first place.

Councilor Joe Mihevec undermines his own argument of support of the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy by saying he doesn’t have a problem with police reporting someone to the CBSA who appears to have committed a crime.  Well Joe, by being in the country illegally, that person has already committed a crime.  You can’t suck and blow at the same time.  Are we a country of laws or are we not?

The safety aspect Joe cites is debatable, but what shouldn’t be debatable is that by not arresting and deporting illegals, we’re creating an unsafe environment for all Canadians, both those born here and those who have entered lawfully.

By advertising that our immigration laws are not important, it encourages more people to attempt to illegally enter the country.  For those who do manage to get into the country, what do they have to lose?  They may get in undetected but if  they get caught, the worst thing that will happen is they will have to spend a short time in custody and if they are determined to not be a threat, will be released pending their immigration hearing.  Maybe they’ll actually bother to show up to it.

 

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The original Toronto Sun article from 27 February 2017:

Will police not tell

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders will deliver a report in March detailing whether his officers will comply with federal immigration laws or Toronto’s sanctuary city policies.

Under Canadian law, police are expected to contact border officials to report individuals who are here illegally, though current practice is they “don’t ask” anyone’s immigration status.

However, city council wants the force to adopt a “don’t tell” policy and refuse to pass along any information to immigration authorities about individuals they find who illegally entered Canada.

That policy will clearly put Saunders and his officers in an awkward position.

According to Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), police are obliged to report immigration violations to them — regardless of city policies.

“The CBSA works with law enforcement agencies to uphold and enforce Canadian law,” CBSA spokesman Line Guibert-Wolff said in an e-mail. “These partnerships are crucial in ensuring the safety and security of our country and citizens.”

The Toronto Sun specifically asked if police officers are expected to report to the CBSA when they come in contact with a person through work — even a victim of crime — who’s in the country illegally.

“In the course of their regular duties, a law enforcement officer has the authority to arrest and detain that individual and present this person to the CBSA,” Guibert-Wolff said. “Partners will refer cases to the CBSA for reasons including: outstanding warrants, criminality, overstay, to verify identity, and for working without authorization.”

Toronto Police have had a “don’t ask” witnesses and victims policy since 2006, but immigrant and refugee advocates No One is Illegal reported extensive “collaboration” between officers and border officials, and launched a campaign to “stop Toronto Police from doing Immigration Enforcement’s Dirty Work.”

Saunders was asked by council a year ago to report back on expanding the “don’t ask, don’t tell” philosophy deeper into the service, after complaints undocumented individuals were afraid to access police services for fear they’d be turned over to immigration officials and deported.

Police spokesman Mark Pugash said Saunders will respond to council’s request at the March meeting of the police services board.

Toronto became the country’s first “sanctuary city” in 2013, and reaffirmed that decision in a vote a few weeks ago, adopting an official policy of providing public services to all residents regardless of their status.

If a city worker or public service provider learns a person is not in this country legally, that status cannot be reported to border authorities under the city policy.

Montreal became the latest “sanctuary city” to pass a similar policy, and Hamilton and London are already on board. Last week, the mayor of Fredericton, N.B., Mike O’Brien, said he wants his city to join the growing list.

Toronto Councillor Joe Mihevc, a strong supporter of sanctuary cities, suggested it’s not uncommon for two levels of government, or even two departments within the same government, to have competing goals.

“We are the local government — our job is newcomer settlement,” he said. “It is not our job to basically deport people, nor should we be acting as (the border agency’s) agent.”

Mihevc said the current request before the chief follows a city Service Access Audit which suggested more needed to be done within the Toronto Police Service on the “access without fear” city policy.

“Basically it’s kind of a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ set of policies,” Mihevc said of the sanctuary city initiative. “So you don’t ask if someone comes to a homeless shelter, or someone comes to our parks and rec or for a library card, you don’t ask their status in Canada and you provide the service that they need. And you also don’t tell (border authorities) if you find out.

“The police have historically said, ‘We are okay with the ‘don’t ask’ part, but we are legally obliged on the ‘tell’ part.’”

But No One is Illegal has come forward with a legal opinion that suggests the “‘don’t tell’ part” is an option for police, not a mandate, he said.

Mihevc said he would still expect police to report undocumented residents who appear to be complicit in a crime.

But not, for example, a woman who is being abused and calls police, who would then risk being turned over to immigration authorities if the abuser tells officers she’s undocumented, he said.

“Are the police obligated to tell the Canadian Border Services (in that case)? That’s the kind of situation we’re trying to avoid,” said Mihevc. “We think it would be frankly at the end of the day a safer Toronto to have undocumented residents feel comfortable reporting illegal activity.”

Undocumented workers

According to a city staff report from 2015, there are already anywhere between 20,000 and 500,000 undocumented people living in Canada — and the best guess is that about half of them live in Toronto.

Those numbers will undoubtedly swell with warmer weather and expectations that thousands of asylum seekers in the U.S. will cross Canada’s border to escape possible deportation under U.S. President Donald Trump’s vow to enforce American immigration laws and target violent criminals for deportation.

Hundreds have already began to cross the border in remote locations, especially in Manitoba and Quebec, avoiding border checkpoints to skirt the Safe Third Country Agreement that would require them to seek refugee status in the U.S. where the sought protection.

What does Mayor John Tory have to say?

Toronto will be asking the Justin Trudeau government for more help to settle refugees, Mayor John Tory says.

The Toronto Sun asked the mayor this week about the arrival of refugees fleeing the United States, and about the Toronto Police Service’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policies for undocumented residents:

•Toronto is a “sanctuary city,” and a popular landing spot for refugees, what are you seeing as people flee President Donald Trump’s immigration policies?

— “City staff are telling us it’s too early to say what, if any, impact there has been on services stemming from American foreign policy changes. However, as any good order of government, we are monitoring our services and our shelters in order to understand what service levels we’re meeting and what the future need will be.”

•Will this put a strain on city services, and if so, what kind of help do you hope for from the federal government or other levels of government?

— “We are working with the federal government to ensure that refugees coming to Canada have all the services they require to succeed. Unfortunately, the federal government ends funding for government-sponsored refugees after one year at which point the municipalities are filling in for the feds. Does more need to be done following the first year? Absolutely. I’ll be asking the federal government to do more. The feds do provide some funding for the shelter system and providing assistance to refugees in our shelter system should certainly be supported by the federal government.”

•Last February, you voted against asking the police chief to report back on the expansion of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy to police officers who come across people with outstanding immigration orders. Why?

-“It’s important for our police to be able to communicate with everyone in the city. On this issue, more work needs to be done between the City of Toronto and the Toronto Police. At the Toronto Police Services Board we forwarded the report to the chief and asked him to look at these recommendations. He’s currently working with city staff.”

 

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Edited version submitted to the Toronto Sun:

Re:  Will police not tell (February 27):  Toronto City Council are close to overstepping their authority by asking the police to consider expanding the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, and I hope Chief Mark Saunders tells them as much when he reports to the police services board at their March meeting.  Council, through the police services board who directly oversee the police, have no authority to order Chief Saunders not to enforce immigration legislation.  Section 31 (4) the Police Services Act specifically states, “the board shall not direct the chief of police with respect to specific operational decisions or with respect to the day-to-day operation of the police force.”  At this point it’s still only a request, but if Chief Saunders refuses to comply, does the issue end there?  Additionally, police have an obligation to uphold the law, regardless of whether it goes contrary to political will.  This isn’t the same as a cop letting you off on that speeding ticket. Councilor Joe Mihevec undermines his own argument by saying he doesn’t have a problem with police reporting someone who appears to have committed a crime.  Well Joe, by being in the country illegally, that person has already committed a crime.  You can’t suck and blow at the same time.  Are we a country of laws or are we not?

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/dont-ask-dont-tell-the-wrong-move/

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