Skip to main content

New report confirms Toronto Police racially profile refugees and migrants

No One Is Illegal-Toronto


Wednesday, November 25, 2015


TODAY: New report confirms Toronto Police racially profile refugees and migrants

City funds used for federal immigration enforcement’s dirty work, violating municipal and provincial laws

Toronto – Government data revealed in a report released today “Often Asking, Always Telling: The Toronto Police Service and the Sanctuary City Policy” shows that the Toronto Police Service (TPS) has been reporting over a 100 Torontonians to federal immigration enforcement every week, contrary to its mandate, and in violation of the Toronto Sanctuary City policy. As a result, TPS is actively involved in indefinite detentions and deportations, putting many of the 200,000 undocumented Torontonians at grave risk.

The full report can be found at

Migrant justice and police accountability critics are calling on the TPS to develop a comprehensive “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which would require that TPS not check a resident’s immigration status during interactions, and, if ascertained, not disclose that information to Federal Immigration.

“At the same time as the federal government is making congratulatory statements regarding the rightful welcoming of refugees, we have undeniable evidence that Toronto police racially profiles immigrants in the city based on their accent and skin colour to find out if they have full immigration status, and if they don’t, arrests them and hands them over to immigration enforcement,” explains Karl Gardner, an organizer with No One Is Illegal-Toronto. “TPS is doing federal immigration enforcement’s dirty work, using city resources to do something that’s not in their mandate. This violates Toronto’s Sanctuary City policy, and City Council and the Toronto Police must act to end racial profiling and this wasteful use of resources that results in detentions and deportations.”

Toronto Police reported 3,278 people to Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) between November 2014 and June 2015 - or approximately 100 every week. Between November 2014 and 2015, less than 7.1% of those reported had outstanding immigration warrants. 83% of all calls were to perform a “status check” suggesting that TPS officers racially profiled the individuals, and chose to contact CBSA without cause.

One of the people cited in the report is Jared, a mid-20s Toronto resident who called TPS when he witnessed a shooting in his neighbourhood. Police officers contacted immigration enforcement, found out that he was undocumented, and arrested him. He says, “When I sat down they told me that they had run my name and discovered that there was an immigration warrant out for me. I immediately broke down in tears. I spent two and half months in the Toronto Immigration Holding Centre. I was on the verge of being deported. To tell you the truth if I could do it all over again, I would do it differently [...] I’ll never ever ever ever go to the police again, even for the smallest thing.”

Macdonald Scott, an immigration consultant at Carranza LLP who has encountered many similar cases, says the Toronto Police Service going out of their way to do immigration enforcement’s work. “The Toronto Police Service consistently argues that Ontario laws compel it to do immigration enforcement so they have no choice but to break Toronto’s Sanctuary City police - but a quick reading of the Ontario Police Act proves this to be lie. Toronto Police are under no obligation to, and therefore should not be doing federal immigration enforcement’s dirty work. They are a municipal agency which has no business upholding federal administrative law.”

“The United Nations has repeatedly sanctioned Canada’s unjust and indefinite immigration detentions system, and at least 10 people have died in immigration detention over the last ten years,” adds Gardner. “Toronto Police is actively participating in this injustice, and it’s high time they stop doing so.”



Toronto Police Service Collaboration With Federal Immigration Enforcement

  1. Toronto Police reported 3,278 people to Immigration Enforcement between November 4th 2014 and June 28th 2015, approximately 100 people a week (or nearly 14 people every day).

  • With its 3,278 calls, the TPS made more calls than the police services of Montreal, Quebec City, Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver combined (2,729)

  1. From November 4th 2014 to October 16 2015, the CBSA Immigration Warrant Response Centre only received 178 warrant enquiries and 100 database verification from the Toronto Police Service, but almost 3,275 status check inquiries.

  • This means that only 7.1% of all those referred to CBSA even had immigration warrants out.

  1. 83.4% people that were reported in the same roughly one year period were because Police Officers were “suspicious” that the person may not have immigration status. This suggests that TPS racially profiled individuals on the basis of their skin tone and accent.

  2. The Toronto Police Service says that it has no formal agreement with federal immigration enforcement so these 100 reports a week are the Toronto Police Service going out of their way to do immigration enforcement’s work.

  3. The Toronto Police Service reports even victims and witnesses of crimes (such as domestic abuse survivor Lilliana Fontes) - contrary to its own partial Don’t Ask for immigration status policy.

  4. The Toronto Police Service reports immigration status of undocumented Torontonians every time, even though the Ontario Police Act gives Police the discretion to choose whether to report or not.

  5. Toronto Police is in violation of Toronto’s Sanctuary City Policy.

    1. In February 2013, the City of Toronto passed a Sanctuary City policy under which all city funded agencies (which includes the Toronto Police Service) must not ask for immigration status of undocumented Torontonians, and if found, must not report it to Federal immigration enforcement.

  6. The Toronto Police Service have the arbitrary power to determine when they are “satisfied” they have established a person’s identity.

  7. When undocumented Torontonians are reported to CBSA, they may end up being indefinitely detained without charges or trial, or deported to their deaths.

What we want:

We call on Toronto City Council and the Toronto Police Services Board to:

  1. End race and class based profiling by the Toronto Police Service.

  2. Stop the reporting of undocumented Torontonians to federal immigration enforcement. Pass a formal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy to this effect.

Full recommendations are here.