Oscar Mata was one of eight men arrested by CBSA agents on March 13 while working at a construction site on Victoria Drive. The raid was filmed for the reality TV show Border Services: Canada’s Front Line.The B.C. Civil Liberties Association plans to complain to the federal Privacy Commissioner on behalf of one of the migrant workers arrested in last week’s raid by the Canada Border Services Agency.
The filming has caused outrage among critics, who say the detainees were exploited for entertainment. The BCCLA said it will argue the CBSA broke federal law and violated Mata’s rights by including TV camera’s in the raid.
Mata, 28, signed a deportation order after the raid and Wednesday morning left Vancouver for his native Mexico. He had been in the city since 2008.
Mata used his last moments in Canada to speak out against the show, saying he signed a release form for the production while he was in detention and was flustered and afraid.
“At that time, too much stress…. I just signed whatever they want,” Mata told reporters and a group of about 15 supporters and friends. “I don’t want my face in that video, I don’t want to be the face of the illegal people.”
Mata said he was worried his appearance in the a show would send the wrong message about undocumented migrant workers.
“We are people, we come to work, to get a better life, to work hard, that’s it.”
Mata was working without a permit as a house painter. A mechanical engineer by training, he arrived in Canada on a six-month student visa in 2008 and ended up staying longer after his child was born in Vancouver.
Byron Cruz, an advocate for migrant workers with the outreach group Sanctuary Health, said in an email CBSA officers seemed to keep well away from Mata and media cameras Wednesday morning. Instead, Mata was escorted by private security guards to collect his boarding pass and to the departure gate.
Harsha Walia of the group No On Is Illegal also attended the early-morning departure.
“People went to say goodbye and be present with him so that he didn’t feel isolated, because this experience has been traumatizing,” she said. “And to show that we don’t buy into the government fearmongering of who Oscar is and who others like Oscar are.”
Walia said two other workers arrested in the raid are being detained with departure dates scheduled for next week.
A petition to end the government-supported reality show had collected 20,000 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon.