VPD Proposes Guidelines To Facilitate Access To Police Services For Undocumented Immigrants But Is It Ploy To Catch Them

VANCOUVER¬† – Vancouver Police released proposed “access without fear” guidelines, which formalize the VPD’s approach to enhancing the safety of undocumented immigrants. The guidelines encourage access to police services for people with uncertain or no immigration status.

The guidelines give direction to police officers to not elicit information about the immigration status of a witness, complainant or victim, and not to enlist the assistance of Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) on any investigation about a witness, complainant or victim, unless there is a legitimate, bona fide reason to do so.

But is it just a ploy to catch unsuspecting illegal immigrants and report them to CBSA? VPD says “No”.

They said even in the absence of official access without fear guidelines for police services, the enforcement of immigration offenses has not been a priority for the VPD. From 2015 to 2017, immigration arrests in Vancouver accounted for only 0.01 per cent of all calls for a police response. In addition, Vancouver Police have consistently stated that undocumented migrants, who are victims of, or witnesses to, crime, should not be fearful of coming to the police for help, as the VPD’s primary concern is investigating the crime itself.

In April 2016, city council for the City of Vancouver unanimously passed the City’s access without fear policy. At that time, council requested that the Vancouver Police Board consider adopting policy, within the VPD’s mandate, in support of the City’s policy.

The VPD has been in discussions with the City of Vancouver about the issue since 2014 and has participated in the Mayor’s Working Group on Immigration and in town hall meetings during the development of the City’s policy. The VPD has also consulted other relevant and interested stakeholders on the policy over the past two years.

The VPD will deliver training on the new guidelines to ensure police officers understand its intent and how it may impact their day-to-day work. The VPD will also provide a point of contact if concerns arise.

The Vancouver Police Board will review the guidelines at a board meeting on Thursday.

VPD Guidelines on Access to Police Services Without Fear

The VPD has created guidelines to ensure that victims, witnesses, and complainants may access police services without fear. The VPD will provide direction to members to not ask about a victim’s, witness’, or complainant’s immigration status, nor communicate with CBSA regarding their immigration status, during the course of a police investigation, unless bona fide reasons exist. The guidelines are philosophically consistent with other VPD policies that strike an appropriate balance between societal interests and policing needs. For example, the VPD acknowledges that individuals may be reluctant to contact the police in drug overdoses for fear that they will be arrested. Therefore, the VPD has guidelines in place for police who attend illicit drug overdoses, which outline that the primary reason for police attendance at a non-fatal drug overdose is to assist with life saving measures. It would be in rare circumstances that criminal charges would arise from attendance at a routine drug overdose call.


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