by Christopher Johnson —
Lucia Jimenez used to clean rooms at a Vancouver hotel.
There are no reports that she was involved — like hundreds of criminals roaming free in Vancouver — in home invasions, drug trafficking, sex slavery, or laundering money in real estate. Her friends said she was working hard at low-paying jobs to send money home to family in Mexico, as thousands do.
Last December, Vancouver transit police reportedly heard her speaking Spanish on the Sky Train. Transit officers have claimed, without evidence, that Jimenez didn’t have a ticket, worth about 3 dollars. They didn’t just make her pay 3 dollars, or a $50 fine as in Berlin and other cities.
They called the Canadian Border Service Agency, or CBSA. Apparently, Transit Police, charged with keeping trains safe, do this almost every day. According to ground-breaking reports in The Tyee, transit police detained 328 passengers and handed them over to the CBSA last year. It’s a chilling thought for many accustomed to Vancouver’s reputation for civility and tolerance.
Officials didn’t try to help Jimenez become a Canadian, since she apparently was willing to do jobs unappealing to most Canadians.
Instead, they put Jimenez, 42, in a maximum security prison for hardcore criminals and then moved her to a secretive dungeon under Vancouver Airport, a so-called “holding cell” for deportees.
Millions of passengers paying taxes to use the airport never knew about this dungeon, which raises questions about security and safety of passengers and crew, and media complicity in hiding this from the public.
Jimenez reportedly tried to hang herself in the shower, but there’s no way to verify whether she died of suicide, murder, illness or other causes.
Border guards, police and government officials didn’t make her death public for a month.
A group of Mexicans in Vancouver did, a few weeks later. They demanded an inquiry. They got one, but they aren’t allowed to participate.
A coroner’s inquest is indeed bringing her tragedy to light, but Canadian Press and other Vancouver media outlets are effectively keeping Canadians in the dark, and they are focussing on her alleged “failings” instead of courageously exposing official cruelty.
Jimenez’s friends and family, and any lawyers who dealt with her, aren’t allowed to speak at the inquest. Jimenez is dead, and she can’t defend herself or tell her side of the story.
Yet Vancouver journalists are playing along with official attempts to smear her name and reputation in headlines that appear on Google searches. They have spun a narrative about Jimenez — that she snuck into Canada twice, cheated on the Skytrain, failed to fill out forms, consented to deportation — with no verifiable evidence whatsoever to support those allegations.
Earlier this week, this Canadian Press report promised that the inquest would “peel back” the curtain on British Columbia’s secretive deportation system.
Indeed, there’s much to investigate. In Japan, I’ve reported extensively on how immigration officers, private security guards, and airlines have colluded to profit from thousands of detainees — including myself and other Canadians — caught in legal limbo at Narita Airport. The United Nations, Tokyo courts, rights groups and a British MP, among others, have blasted officials for harsh expulsions, including the murder of longtime Tokyo resident Abubakar Suraj aboard an Egypt Air jet parked at Narita Airport in 2010.
Canadians, who often employ, befriend of marry people such as Jimenez — should know how much airlines gain or lose from flying deportees overseas against their will. How much did they charge to fly Jimenez to Mexico? Who booked the flight? What does the airline CEO think of this? What do passengers think about it?
Canadians should know how many people have lived — and died — in dungeons at Vancouver airport and others across the country. Are these dungeons legal? A security or safety risk to passengers and crew? Why hold “dangerous” people at an airport? Is Transport Canada doing anything about this?
Canadians should demand release of any recordings of treatment of detainees, or demand that interactions be recorded.
There are many questions to ask and answer.
Instead of delving into a cruel 13th century system, Canadian Press reports have put the spotlight on the victim and her various “failings”. They’ve highlighted unproven allegations that Jimenez was, according to a CBC headline, “kicked out of Canada once before”:
It’s as if sneaking into a country to work and save money is more scandalous than officials hiding humans like rats in a cellar, and not telling anybody about the death of those victims.
A Metro News headline reads: “Woman had no distress over deportation: inquest”.
The story effectively smears the reputation of a dead victim who cannot possibly defend herself or tell her side of the story.
The story leads with unproven accusations by a “CBSA officer” named Raman Vandher. The article doesn’t raise questions about the credibility of Vandher, or any details about Vandher’s age, experience, training or previous record of dealing with detainees. It doesn’t raise suspicion that Vandher or others might have killed Jimenez in the dungeon.
Instead, it gives Vandher carte blanche to spin the story her own way.
The officer claims, without presenting verifiable evidence, that the detained Jimenez was “calm” and “showed no distress” in the days before her death. The article states: “Lucia Vega Jimenez seemed to accept the fact that she was being deported and that her flight was booked back to Mexico, CBSA case officer Raman Vandher told the inquest on Tuesday.”
The reporter and editors offered no cavil about the unproven claims that Jimenez willfully consented to being abused and deported. The claims were made by an official about a dead person, and some might argue that they defame the reputation of the person by painting her as a cheater who failed to fill out forms correctly and make proper use of a lawyer. As such, should the victim’s family and supporters sue the Canadian Press and media outlets who propagated these unproven allegations and depictions?
The article then quotes “two imprisoned foreigners” who “befriended” Jimenez — as if convicts are credible sources who can speak on behalf of a dead person. The Canadian Press highlighted claims by these prisoners, without evidence, that Jimenez “confided in them a fear of torture or death by a gang or drug cartel if returned home.”
It’s impossible to know if this is true, and it doesn’t paint the friends and family of Jimenez in a very positive light, at a time when they are mourning the death of their loved one.
The article buries much more important information lower in the story. This should have been the lead item:
Spanish-speaking nurse Lilia Hernandez-Cazares told the inquest that she saw scars on Jimenez’s body, and she scheduled an appointment with a “mental health coordinator”.
Thus, the article should highlight this at the top:
Prison nurse says detainee needed psychiatric help. Border guard said she saw no problem.
Instead, the Canadian Press, Metro News and others acted like uncritical note-takers parlaying the self-serving official version of the story.
The irony is that a Canadian Press reporter in Ottawa broke the story, through an Access to Information request, that the Red Cross secretly gave a report to the CBSA about appalling conditions for detained people without proper official status in Canada.
It’s scandalous that border guards and public health officials are allegedly colluding to keep information out of the public eye. Many journalists would be outraged.
So, why then, are Canadian Press journalists in Vancouver parlaying the official attempt to smear Jimenez, silence her supporters, and cover-up a scandalous abuse of power?
Dene Moore is perhaps the most senior reporter and editor at the Canadian Press in Vancouver. She’s gained a reputation among local journalists for her skills at using Freedom of Information requests. Yet she apparently doesn’t respect the public’s need to know information about the behavior of Canadian Press reporters in Vancouver. Moore did not respond to tweets seeking comment, and she and another CP reporter in Vancouver have blocked this reporter on Twitter.
This ultimately raises a key question: if journalists lack compassion for a victim of undeniable cruelty in a 13th century system, why not inform the public about their own dark dealings?