Editorial: There Are No Borders At Concordia

Graphic: Morag Rahn-Campbell

On Nov. 15, a marked car sat parked outside Concordia’s Hall Building.

The writing on the vehicle read “Canadian Border Services Agency.” Students saw the car and waited for its driver to return. The agent was inside the university.

What CBSA was doing on campus is not yet known.

Representatives of the Concordia Student Union claim that CBSA agents were retrieving information on a student. Concordia spokesperson Chris Mota claimed it was a “courtesy visit.”

Ultimately, Concordia administration said one thing, the Concordia Student Union said another, and CBSA would not divulge any information on the purpose of their visit. Nothing has been confirmed as fact and this is a problem.

Responding to these unclear events, the CSU has passed a motion through council in favour of making Concordia a “sanctuary campus.” Although somewhat ill-defined, this term refers to campuses that refuse to help immigration enforcement to deport students.

Problematically, the CSU passed this motion based on personal observations and allegations of why CBSA was on campus. We acknowledge that the mere presence of a CBSA vehicle on campus could be a cause of discomfort for many international students. However, without knowing the facts behind the visit, the CSU rushed to act.

The union also passed the motion through council, rather than through a referendum of the student body, which restricts conversation and excludes the general student population from taking part. Passing this motion through a referendum would have strengthened the resolution and would have put the CSU in a stronger negotiating position with the university when it begins the process of becoming a sanctuary campus.

For these reasons, we criticize the parties involved for failing to present an accurate and consistent description of events. This is especially important for the press, seeing as we relay the information between the university administration, its student unions, and its students.

Despite this, we at The Link are in favour of the CSU’s motion. We believe that Concordia should become a sanctuary campus. However, there is some disagreement within our team about how far these measures should go.

Regardless of these disagreements, the entire team agrees on one thing—Concordia should not, under any circumstances, provide information on students to CBSA.

CBSA and Concordia have a somewhat special relationship. In 2011, then-President and Vice-Chancellor of Concordia University Frederick Lowy, and Luc Portelance, the President of Canada Border Services Agency at the time, co-signed a memorandum of understanding that “connects the university to the Public Service of Canada through a collaboration that supports education, research and professional training,” according to CBSA’s website.

This collaboration came about after Portelance was appointed “Concordia’s Champion” under the Deputy Minister University program, which helps students find work in the federal government and supposedly “provides a framework for collaboration between public servants and university researchers.”

What that means is that CBSA maintains a higher level of contact with Concordia’s administration than other universities.

If CBSA were indeed gathering intelligence on a student at Concordia, then we would have a major problem on our hands. With status or without, all Concordia students deserve protection from the university. If Concordia willingly gave up information on students, then not only is it a major breach of trust between the institution and its students, but it also goes against Concordia’s own stated values of diversity and inclusion.

It’s important to note here that CBSA’s mandate covers immigration law, not domestic criminal law. The agency’s mandate covers exclusively cross-border affairs.

It’s also important to remember that any policing agency’s job includes more than just law enforcement, but also intelligence-gathering. When police agencies such as CBSA collect information, they facilitate direct enforcement—in this case, deportations. Police and military strategists call this “mapping the human terrain.” Intelligence leads to action, and action, in this case, can lead to taking human beings from their homes and shipping them out of the country.

Any information that Concordia gives CBSA—even in the most innocuous of circumstances—contributes to deportations, or at least to threats thereof. We cannot accept this.

If Concordia genuinely does care for its diversity and its international students, it should immediately pass a motion of noncompliance with CBSA information requests regarding its students.