GTEC (Greater Toronto Enforcement Centre) INTERVIEWS
When people receive letters to attend at the GTEC (CBSA) they panic and they think that it is over, that they will be removed immediately. First, you need to be assured, that this is not necessarily the case, despite the letter generally stating that the your Removal Order is now effective and/or you are removal ready. There are remedies available to you under these circumstances which shall be discussed in another blog. However, I want to discuss my experience and give my two cents from an Articling Student’s perspective and how to act to avoid problems.
First of all, be calm! Nothing should happen if you remain calm, even under the worst circumstance and even in the worst circumstance there are remedies which can be discussed once you get back to our office. Second, listen to me when I am trying to tell you to be calm. You weren’t listening to me before and now you are panicking. Be calm. Nothing will happen if you remain calm.
When a client gets convoked to GTEC – now called EIOD or Enforcement and Intelligence Operations Division. Why? I don’t know. I don’t know what’s so intelligent about it – they feel uneasy to say the least. The client is unsure what will happen next: will they get yelled at profusely? Interrogated in a dark room under bright lights à la Hollywood? Arrested? Deported? Will they lose the ability to work and earn a livelihood? Will they be separated from their children? These are legitimate concerns and are not foreign to counsel. It’s important to always remember the first point and to be calm.
GTEC is not a nice place. There is tension in the air. People who are convoked for an interview at let’s say 9 am, will not get seen until 11, if they are lucky. Sometimes, you see mothers with their strollers and families with their impatient young children, they must wait there and gaze at CBSA officers on the other side of a thick plexiglass window. These officers often do not look friendly: they walk with holstered guns and bullet proof vests towards an annoyingly loud intercom to call other worried souls to their interviews. Upon being called, one, two, or a whole family of grim-faced people will stand up and drag their feet to the designated interview room.
The interview rooms are not nice places. I have seen things that are not pleasant happening there, but remember they tend to happen only if clients do not remain calm and there is a confrontation between the client and the CBSA officer. I’ve seen interviewees get rolled out on a stretcher by paramedics. The air has a certain noxious smell that is difficult to describe. It haunts me long after I’ve left the building. There are usually two stools to sit on, but in some rooms there are three. There are always big yellow plaques on the wall warning you that everything you do and say is being recorded on audio and video. In these interview rooms, there is another plexiglass window/wall separating you from the officer.
I describe GTEC for a reason. I don’t blame our clients for not wanting to be there. If I were in their shoes I would not want to be there. Officers sometime look like they do not want to be there. But the important thing to remember is that the Client IS there, which means that they are not running and hiding and that is a good thing. This is the first step to having an agreeable interview at GTEC, making it clear that the client is not going to run and hide.
The second most important thing is to answer questions truthfully. Be calm, breath, take your time, and answer the questions truthfully. First, listen to the question. Make sure you understand what the question is, and answer it truthfully. Don’t give too many details, don’t give an answer that is not relevant to the question. Don’t think that you can outsmart the officer and give some weird smartalicky answer. These things will not help you at all. Just be calm. Listen. Breathe. And answer truthfully.
I insist on listening, breathing, and staying calm because the opposite – being nervous, not breathing, getting excited, crying, not answering, yelling – will result in the worst case scenario, which is an arrest followed by detention. Please remember if the officer thinks you will panic and run they can arrest you because they have the right to detain under the law if they think you will not show up when convoked by CBSA or CIC. So always remember my first point: be calm. Nothing will happen if you remain calm. Then listen. Breathe. And answer truthfully.
Next, remember that counsel (I) am there to help and make sure that the officer does not ask irrelevant questions, and does not act in a way that would lead to a breach of the law, or in general that things do not escalate or get complicated without reason. That is all I am there for. I am not there to answer the questions for you. I am not there to trick the officer. I am not there to give some brilliant speech that will leave the CBSA officer flabbergasted. None of this can happen, and even if it could happen, it would not help. I am there to make sure nothing gets out of hand. I am there to make sure you remember to breath, and stay calm. I might gently put my hand on your shoulder if I notice that you are becoming agitated. I will remind the officer that you are nervous because of the nature of the interview itself, because the client is being interviewed by a person with authority, and no other reason. The only time I will answer questions is if they are technical, such as when the officers ask questions such as whether or not you “made an application for landing.”
I have done my job when I walk out with you from the interview, calmly walking towards the parking lot.
Articling Student, 2013-2014