University of Toronto law school researchers claim Canada’s immigration detention system breaches human rights
Migrants with mental health issues kept in maximum security for years, report finds
Victor Vinnetou has been held by Canada Border Services Agency for 11 years. The detainee is believed to be the missing South African anti-apartheid icon Mbuyisa Makhubu. Canadian authorities cannot positively identify him.
Canada regularly breaches international human rights obligations by routinely detaining migrants with mental health issues in maximum-security jails — sometimes for years, says a hard-hitting new study.
Calling the country’s immigration detention system “a legal black hole,” University of Toronto law school researchers said there are no established criteria in law to determine when a detainee can or should be transferred from an immigration holding centre to a provincial jail.
“Canada’s detention review regime creates an effective presumption against release, while judicial review of detention decisions is largely ineffectual,” said the study by the law school’s International Human Rights Program, to be released Thursday.
“In some cases, the end result is long-term detention that is, in practice, preventative and indefinite.”
The 129-page report was the result of 10 months of field work and research that included dozens of interviews with lawyers, correctional staff, a former border agency director, doctors, mental health experts, former and current detainees as well as data obtained under government access to information requests.
Its release comes just a week after an “agitated” 39-year-old immigration detainee was restrained and died in a Peterborough hospital after he was transferred from the Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay.
It also followed the high-profile death of Mexican detainee Lucia Vega Jimenez, who committed suicide while in detention in Vancouver.
According to the U of T study, more than 7,300 migrants — 60 per cent of them in Ontario — were detained by Canada Border Service Agency in 2013, the latest statistics available; nearly one-third of them were held in provincial prisons intended for the criminal population.