June 24, 2015
Toronto — The End Immigration Detention Network is releasing a secretive contract between the Ontario and Federal government which shows joint responsibility for immigration detention violations. Ontario has denied the existence of this agreement on multiple occasions, and it has not been released in previous requests under the Access to Information and Privacy Act.
“This contract clearly shows that Ontario and Canada have been working together to deprive immigrants of their freedom without charges or trial, and creating prison conditions that are resulting in misery and death,” says Tings Chak, organizer with No One Is Illegal – Toronto and the End Immigration Detention Network. “It’s time to end the secrecy, and do a fundamental overhaul of the immigration detention system; immigration detention must end.”
The agreement came into effect on April 1, 2013 but was only signed by sitting Ontario Minister Yasir Naqvi on January 21, 2015. It must be renewed annually and can thus be cancelled in January 2016 by either party. It came to light earlier this week after the release of a report on immigration detention by the University of Toronto International Human Rights Program and the death in immigration detention custody of Abdurahman Ibrahim Hassan. It can be downloaded at www.endimmigrationdetention.com
“Immigration detention is getting way out of hand. they are locking us up and forgetting about us. I have seen 4 people held in detention with me pass away while in CBSA custody, there is no end to detention and I am worried the next one will be me” says 50 year old Francis Davidson. Davidson has been in Canada 27 years and has been held in detention for the past 4 years. He continued, “I want immigration detention to end now.” Further statements from immigration detainees can be found here.
Key facts about immigration detention & violations
- Over 7300 migrants were detained without charges or trial in 2013. Approximately, one-third of all detention happens in maximum security provincial facilities rented out by provincial governments to Canada Border Services Agency. 60% of all detentions take place in Ontario.
- There is absolutely no system to determine under what circumstances some detainees are held in one of three federal immigration holding centres (Toronto, Laval and Vancouver) and the rest in provincial jails.
- The decision to detain or release is made by civil servants, who are not legally trained, known as Board Members. Board Members release rates vary arbitrarily between 5% and 38%. Release rates also vary by region, 9% in Ontario, and 26.5% in the rest of Canada. There is no comprehensive judicial oversight of these decisions.
- Canada is one of the few western countries in the world without a time limit on detentions, thus some immigrants have been jailed for over 12 years without charges or trial.
- Since 2000, at least 12 immigrants have died in CBSA custody according to news reports. CBSA has never publicly revealed details of deaths in its custody.
- If arrested for a crime, immigrants are punished three times. First, for the crime itself, Second, by having their immigration status revoked or if it’s in process, denied, and facing deportation. Third, by being jailed, in some cases indefinitely.
- CBSA has been found to use international smugglers to get fake documents to deport migrants to countries they have no connections to, as in the case of Michael Mvogo. See full details here.
- CBSA flies detainees to Kenya, and then pays bush-pilots US$25,000 in cash to transport those detainees to Somalia. See CBC investigation in the case of Saeed Jama.
- CBSA regularly imprisons children. At the same time, it does not report on imprisonment of children with Canadian citizen insisting that they are ‘accompanying’ their parents.
Key aspects of the Contract
Though the contract refers to the “interests of public safety” as the justification for detention in provincial jails, immigration detention is ‘administrative’ imprisonment.
Payment (s. 8.1): Canada Border Services Agency pays Ontario a per-diem rate to imprison migrants. Ontario is paid an additional amount of 20% of the per diem rate to cover overhead and administration. Thus, Ontario directly profits from cruel and inhumane detentions that do not conform to basic due process guarantees and are contrary to international legal norms.
Health and Safety (s.2.11-2.14): Health and safety of immigration detainees is the responsibility of the province, except where the detainee is transferred to hospital, in which case Canada must assume custody within 24 hours, or a psychiatric institution pursuant to the Mental Health Act. Thus, Ontario and CBSA are jointly responsible for deaths in immigration custody.
Detention and Transfer of Immigration Detainees (s. 2.7 and 2.8.): Ontario may refuse to detain any immigration detainee whom Canada has requested be detained when its an operational necessity; (s. 2.9) Ontario limits detentions of certain individuals to not to exceed 30 consecutive nights, but CBSA and Ontario are working together to jail some detainees indefinitely.
Detention and Transfer of Immigration Detainees (s 2.19-2.19.3): Ontario shall detain persons as long as they are in CBSA custody or until this agreement is terminated. Ontario is choosing to maintain this agreement and indefinite detention along with CBSA..
Monitoring (s. 5); Red Cross “may meet with persons detained…according to access granted by Ontario”, however no independent monitoring has ever taken place. Ontario continues to deny the Red Cross monitoring access to immigration detention ranges.
Tings Chak, 416-276-2174, Organizer, No One is Illegal / End Immigration Detention Network