Mexican expat Fernando Garci-Crespo Santalo loves to perform for donations near Victoria’s inner harbour, and will occasionally sing a tune in Spanish.
But while busking on Thursday night outside the visitor centre, he was approached by a man who started allegedly demanding to know about his immigration status.
“This old man approached me, had a bag with some recycling [in it]… he told me he was an off duty immigration officer,” said Santalo.
“He demanded to see my papers and my licence because there were ‘illegal immigrants and foreigners busking here taking jobs’.”
Santalo said he tried to refuse, and assured the man he was in Canada legally and licensed to busk. But after the man reached into his bag Santalo says he got scared and ended up complying.
“Maybe I was paranoid after the El Paso shooting… but I didn’t know how he would act.”
A gunman targeting Mexicans stormed into an El Paso Walmart in Texas on August 3, killing 22 people.
The gunman was arrested and officials are considering hate crime charges.
“I Think it’s important to realize this fear we are seeing down south, and this fear that right-wing politicians in Canada are using to gain votes, is hurting the fabric of Canadian society,” said Santalo.
The UBC student comes home to Victoria during the summers to spend time with his mother. He first came to the Island from Mexico city as an international student four years ago — and hopes to soon have his residency.
He busks to bring some additional income to his family.
He shared the encounter on Facebook, and got an overwhelming amount of support.
It even got the attention of Bowinn Ma, MLA for North Vancouver-Lonsdale.
“How dare someone go around terrorizing people in Canada by imitating an American-style ICE official!” said Ma in a Facebook post.
“This story tells me the fight for multicultural acceptance isn’t over.”
Victoria police say they’ve reached out to assure Santalo is okay, and invited him to report the incident.
Santalo says he will let it go, but hopes it starts a conversation about hateful rhetoric.
“I don’t think there is another country in the world that is as welcoming of people regardless of skin colour, of race or ethnicity,” said Santalo.
“I am using art, and music and human connection with people, strangers of all political stripes, to bring together humanity…. this has not deterred me from doing it.”