One of the MPs conducting a review into the housing of immigration detainees in provincial jails says the practice must be reduced as much as possible.
Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, also wants the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to avoid putting children in detention facilities ‘as much as humanly possible’.
He feels this can be done by building new facilities specifically designed for the purpose of immigration, plus by coming up with reliable alternatives to the use of detention altogether.
CBSA’s Detention Track Record in Numbers
- 15 deaths since 2000
- 3 deaths this year
- 6,768 detained between April 2014 and March 2015
- 2,366 of those release, 3,325 deported
- Average detention: 24.5 days
- Legal limit on detention: None
Only then can the government avoid ‘as much as we can the intermingling of immigration/refugee cases with criminal elements’, Goodale says.
Canada has been criticized from within and from the outside over its policies on keeping immigration detainees indefinitely.
The campaign to make the CBSA more transparent gathered momentum in May as a 24-year-old man died in an Edmonton provincial jail, becoming the 15th to die in CBSA custody since 2000.
More than 100 senior Ontario lawyers signed an open letter to Yasir Naqvi, Ontario Community Safety and Correctional Services Manager, expressing concerns that detainees are having their basic human rights violated.
Under an October 2014 agreement, the CBSA can move detainees without explanation from immigration holding centres to provincial jails.
Transparency is also key, according to Goodale, who says open access for the United Nations, Canadian Red Cross, plus legal and spiritual advisers must be maintained and any complaints responded to properly and with the utmost scrutiny.
Goodale says a quarter of a million travellers cross the Canadian border each day. An average of 400 are detained if they do not meet the legal requirements, cannot be identified, or are deemed a flight or safety risk.
The CBSA is ready to make changes, according to Goodale, with funding one of the stumbling blocks. He said announcements would be made soon over exactly how such changes will look.
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