Rally planned to support mother detained by immigration officers after dropping off child at school

A rally is being organized in support of a New Westminster, B.C., mother who was detained by immigration officers after dropping her daughter off at kindergarten.

The rally is scheduled to take place outside École Lord Tweedsmuir Elementary School, the daughter’s school, at 10 a.m. PT on Saturday, which coincides with International Migrants Day.

It is being planned by community organization Sanctuary Health, which has been in contact with the unnamed family since the incident. 

Advocates say the incident was disturbing and has been distressing for many in the school and wider immigrant community.

Omar Chu, a member of Sanctuary Health, said the mother was followed after taking her daughter to school on Nov. 30 by four Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) officers and handcuffed in an alley on her way home.

Chu said the mother was later released when her husband came in and was subsequently detained. He said none of the family members are currently detained. 

According to one report, the family is originally from Mexico, the daughter was born in Canada and they have applied for permanent residency on humanitarian grounds. 

The CBSA has not disclosed a reason for the arrest, saying only that its officers were “carrying out their duties” in New Westminster on Nov. 30.

Chu said another troubling aspect to the arrest is that the CBSA had previously contacted the child’s school for information. 

“It is disturbing to see CBSA trying to get the school to violate the students’ privacy,” he said. 

Under the New Westminster school district’s sanctuary schools policy, the district does not share personal information of students or families with immigration authorities and does not permit CBSA officials to enter school grounds except when required by law.

The school district was the first in B.C. to adopt such a policy in May 2017. 

School trustee Maya Russell said staff did not provide the CBSA with information about the student or family. 

The CBSA said in a statement that its officers did at no time enter school property. 

“When it becomes necessary to arrest someone who is evading a removal order, CBSA officers will attempt to arrest at a location where it will not cause a disturbance to the public,” the statement said. 

‘We don’t think children should be hiding in basements’

Russell and fellow school trustee Mark Gifford are expected to speak at the rally, Sanctuary Health said, along with the district’s parent advisory council chair Kathleen Carlsen, and New Westminster Teachers’ Union president Sarah Wethered.

Russell said the actions taken by CBSA in this situation have created fear in the community. 

“We’re not in the border control business, we are in the business of educating children and young people,” Russell said, adding that people shouldn’t fear being detained while taking their children to school.

“We don’t think children should be hiding in basements,” she said. 

The mother and child are in weekly therapy sessions and the child is still attending school, according to Chu. 

“Every child in B.C. has the right to education and this action by CBSA is creating ripples of fear across our communities. Parents are afraid to send their kids to school because they are not sure if CBSA will follow them there,” he said.

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