By Emily Jackson, Metro
Just over a year has passed since transit police turned Lucia Vega Jimenez over to the Canadian Border Services Agency when she was caught without a valid ticket. Jimenez, who was in Canada illegally, subsequently attempted suicide in a holding cell at the Vancouver airport on Dec. 20, 2013. She died a week later, a tragedy that would eventually prompt an inquest into the CBSA’s treatment of detainees at the detention centre.
On Sunday afternoon, a vigil was held in her memory at the Main Street-Science World SkyTrain station where Jimenez was stopped for not paying her fare. The vigil was organized by a new committee called Transportation not Deportation to honour Jimenez and demand that what happened to her never repeats itself, committee member Omar Chu said.
The committee’s goal is to convince transit police cut ties with the CBSA, Chu said. It takes issue with transit officers helping with the CBSA deport migrants, whose unwilling departures can split up families and send people back to dangerous situations in their home countries. (Jimenez feared returning to Mexico because of her ex-boyfriend.)
Transit police reported 328 people to the CBSA last year. At the inquest into Jimenez’s death, the officer who arrested her admitted he called CBSA in part because of her accent.
“For us, that was clear evidence of racial profiling,” Chu said.
The committee supports a sanctuary city policy, but believes ending the collaboration between transit police and the CBSA will be more effective on the ground.
The committee has met with transit police to discuss their concerns.
“They were friendly to us and they listened to our perspective, but I don’t think we are in complete agreement yet. We will continue to push them,” he said.
Metro Vancouver transit police Chief Neil Dubord issued a statement Sunday stating his force intends to address the concerns about how police deal with undocumented immigrants.
“I have heard the passionate concerns voiced by this group, and I am very much open to working towards effecting change that will work for everyone,” Dubord said in the statement.
Dubord is working with local governments and police forces to formulate a common process of dealing with undocumented immigrants and training officers not to question someone’s immigration status.
Dubord has invited the committee to attend a fair and impartial policing workshop in January to see how the officers are being trained.