Hunger strike forces announcement on detentions – the struggle continues.

On August 15, the Federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale pitched a new national immigration detention strategy. Before we share our analysis of this announcement, let us first discuss the context within which the announcement was made.

Melkioro Gahungu, Francisco Astorga, and an as-yet unidentified man, died in immigration detention in the last six months. Three deaths under Goodale’s watch, and not a single word of apology, accountability or responsibility from the Federal Liberals.

The silence was broken only when dozens of people put their health and lives at stake. On July 11th, around 50 immigration detainees began a hunger strike in two Ontario prisons. The strike grew to over 60 detainees by Day 2. The hunger strike lasted 19 days and during this time supporters of migrant justice took to the streets in Regina, Ottawa, Toronto and Peterborough. In Goodale’s hometown, indigenous land defenders at the Colonialism No More camp showed up again and again at Goodale’s offices and public appearances until he met with them. Solidarity messages and letters of support flooded in. Hundreds of us called, emailed and tweeted at Minister Goodale.

Goodale spoke, not because of the goodness of his Liberal heart, but because we – all of us, but most importantly immigration detainees – pressured him to do so. And it wasn’t easy. Goodale tried to ignore us, and tried to dismiss our pressure with a public blog full of lies and misrepresentations.

Now, let us examine the announcement. $138 million will be used to renovate or rebuild two (of the three) immigration prisons in Canada, in Laval, Quebec and Vancouver, British Columbia. $10 million of these funds will be allocated to mental health supports. Consultations will take place at some point, likely by invitation, to make further changes.

We do not expect radical transformation from any government body, but we asked ourselves: Would these changes have kept Melkioro, Francisco, Abdurrahman or anyone else alive? Would these changes mean that individuals would not be jailed in maximum security prisons? Would these changes mean that individuals and families and children would not be jailed indefinitely without charges or trial? The answer to all of the above is a resounding No. In fact, the Liberals’ only response to the hunger strike denouncing gross human rights violation in detention is to pour money into detention centres. This level of cynicism is disgusting.

To answer yes to those questions, the Federal Liberals would have to pass laws, or propose regulations, or at least make a policy changes that end indefinite detention, that end the detention of children, that end the maximum security imprisonment of detainees. The entire process by which detainees are detained would need to be revised (see explanation).

That hasn’t happened – and so our work is far from done. Just last week, we were in court with Alvin Brown, who was imprisoned without charges or trial for over five years. We used a creative, and never-tried-before legal strategy, to get the Ontario provincial courts to rule on a federal immigration matter. While we were expect the ruling to come in a few weeks, CBSA was up to its dirty tricks. Alvin Brown was deported in the middle of the litigation, suspiciously timed to ensure that case law favourable to immigration detainees wouldn’t be created. His lawyers are still seeking damages.

Over the next few months, we will be in the streets, the courts, in MP offices, and on social media raising hell, and seeking your support to end immigration detention. But know this, the fight is far from done. 

End Immigration Detention Network

(End Immigration Detention Peterborough, End Detentions Vancouver, Fuerza Puwersa and No One Is Illegal – Toronto)

As post-script, we must note three other things:

  1. Cloaked in sunshine, sparkles, and grand boasts of being different from the previous Conservative government, the Federal Liberals’ prison expansion project was developed under the previous government, which is why money had already been earmarked and this announcement could be made. The Toronto Immigration Holding Centre is already being expanded, expected to be completed by January 2017, at a cost of some $40 million.

  2. As organizations and individuals, we have come together in the broader work of ensuring freedom to move, return, and stay. We are campaigning against indefinite immigration detention because of who detainees are. Detainees are racialized people forced to flee the ravages of capitalism, war, environmental disaster and social oppression. They arrive here, and are denied basic services because of racisms, and ingrained anti-poor structures. A few turn to crime, and end up in prison faster and for longer because of anti-Black racism. Some cannot be deported because they come from underdeveloped countries which cannot provide the documentation Canada unjustly demands, or because those countries very rightly refuse to accept detainees if they’ve spent most of their lives in Canada. To call for an end to immigration detention is to call for an end to racisms, patriarchy, displacement, and unjust exploitation of the Global South. Since September 2013, we’ve built relationships with immigration detainees, some who have been released, some who have been deported, and some who remain imprisoned, and this campaign is guided as much by their vision as it is ours. 
  3. Our work is one of solidarity. Over the last few months, we have repeatedly heard governmental bodies, and even non-governmental groups suggesting that detainees shouldn’t be kept with ‘criminal populations’. We reject this suggestion. First, most people imprisoned in provincial prisons, where immigration detainees are locked up, are legally innocent, that is they have not had a trial. Second, prisons are not places for rehabilitation or corrections, they are spaces of punishment that provide no resources for individuals to live a life of dignity on the outside. Finally, most people in jail are poor, in jail for crimes against property – and in our society of racism, and capitalism, the burden of the crime cannot be borne by the individual, without profound restructuring of all of social life. As such as individuals, we join with everyone organizing for the abolition of the prison industrial complex.


Immigration Detentions watchdog concerned about possible strong-arming of Jamaican government

Toronto, August 30, 2016 — The End Immigration Detention Network is raising concerns about the suspicious and sudden promise of travel documents in the midst of Mr Alvin Brown’s fight to be released from detention being heard by the Ontario Superior Court this week. Mr Brown has been under a removal order since 2005, and has been imprisoned since September 2011. Canada has not been able to secure travel documents from Jamaica to date. Today, as Mr Brown for the first time is finally getting his day in a court where litigation may result in his release and reparations, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has produced an email from the Jamaican consulate promising issuing of travel documents.

“Why did it take 11 years for CBSA to get the promise of a travel document, and how did it suddenly happen in the midst of litigation? The public should be gravely concerned about the possibility of CBSA strong arming foreign governments to subvert the establishing of precedent and good case law. One may think this was coincidence had the exact same thing not happened in our previous Habeas attempt in the case of Michael Mvogo and Glory Anawa. In any case, we need the Federal government to step in, rein in CBSA, place a 90 day limit on detentions, end maximum security imprisonment, and overhaul the judicial review process as initial steps to ending immigration detention.” said Syed Hussan of the End Immigration Detention Network.

Mr Brown’s case is only possible because the Ontario Court of Appeals asserted jurisdiction in a previous immigration detainee group Habeas Corpus case in 2015. The two lead claimants in that case where Mr Michael Mvogo and Ms Glory Anawa. Before Mr Mvogo and Ms Anawa could have their hearing on facts – which is what Mr Brown is engaged in this week – both of them were deported. A third claimant, Ms Amina Chowdhury was offered a settlement by CBSA and so no case law was created. Mr Mvogo at that point had been in detention for nearly 10 years, and Ms Anawa for almost four years and travel documents, previously unavailable, were suspiciously produced in the midst of litigation in 2015 too.

Jamaica relies heavily on Canadian aid. The Canadian Special Operations Regiment is currently based in Jamaica. Over 8,000 Jamaican farm workers came to Canada in 2016 under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program. Jamaican Minister of Labour and Social Security Shahine Robinson was visiting Canada just earlier this month. All of this, in addition to the suspicious timing of Mr. Brown’s travel documents, leads to serious concerns of CBSA engaging in strong-arming the Jamaican Government.



Media Release: Ontario Court asks Border Enforcement to explain Indefinite Detention



Media Contact: Syed Hussan, 416-453-3632

Ontario Court asks Border Enforcement to explain Indefinite Detention

Toronto, August 30, 2016 — The Ontario Superior Court is set to hear a historic case today, when it will call on Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and the Department of Justice to justify the imprisonment of Alvin Brown, detained since September 2011. This is an almost unheard of occurrence where a provincial court is stepping in on a federal immigration detention matter.

Detainees, advocates and even the United Nations in 2014 have insisted that there is no fair judicial oversight of immigration detention in the federal system. The Ontario Court’s decision to hear this case justified this position. The End Immigration Detention Network, which is supporting Mr Brown, is insisting on a fundamental overhaul of federal immigration detention including overhaul of the judicial oversight process, a 90 day limit on detentions, and end to maximum security imprisonment as initial steps to ending immigration detention.

IMAG1739“Mr Brown is in indefinite detention without any possibility of release as a result of lack of policies limiting detention in Canada,” said Mr Macdonald Scott, Counsel for Mr Alvin Brown at a press conference Tuesday morning. “He has no option but to turn to provincial courts to end his incarceration, but not all detainees can avail this path which shows the need for immediate legislative reform.”

Mr Alvin Brown, forty, has lived in Canada since the age of eight. He was a permanent resident, but is now subject to a removal order to Jamaica. That removal order, however, cannot be executed. Notwithstanding this fact, he has been detained “for removal” for nearly five years, since September 2011.

“Mr Brown is stuck in a system that he can’t get out of, he can’t be deported, no laws compels his release and as a result he is getting sick, can Minister Goodale guarantee that Mr Brown will not die next?” said Syed Hussan, spokesperson for the End Immigration Detention Network. “While we hope that the Ontario courts release Mr Brown who has spent most of his life in Canada today, we are also calling on the Ontario government to refuse to do CBSA’s dirty work, and stop detaining migrants, and on the Federal government to bring in new laws that end unjust immigration detention.”

15 people have died in immigration detention since 2000, three in just the last six months. Canada is one of the few countries in the world without a limit on detentions, and a third of all immigration detainees are imprisoned in maximum security provincial jails primarily in Ontario.

In July, immigration detainees across Ontario went on hunger strike in support of their demands and requesting a meeting with Ralph Goodale, Federal Minister for Public Safety. Detainees have continually asked for a clear commitment from political representatives to bring Canada in line with international best practices and end indefinite maximum security detention. Over 17,000 people have signed a petition in support.

“Mr Brown is being punished three times, first he was sentenced for a crime, then his permanent residency was revoked, and lastly he has been imprisoned for nearly five years without charges or trial or end in sight,” added Hussan on the steps of the Ontario Superior Court. “Every part of the immigration detention system is broken, and must be transformed, we don’t need more prisons, we need new laws.”

Two weeks ago, Minister Ralph Goodale announced a prison build program as part of overhaul of Canadian immigration detention, but did not deal with the fundamental issues of indefinite detention in maximum security prisons without judicial oversight.

Key facts about immigration detention & violations

  • Since 2000, at least 15 immigrants have died in CBSA custody, 3 in just the last six months. At least 8 of the deaths took place in Ontario provincial prisons. Most common cause of death is denial of adequate health care followed by suicide. CBSA has never publicly revealed details of all the deaths in its custody.
  • 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. In 2013, migrant detainees spent a whopping total of 183,928 days (that’s over 503 years) in immigration detention. Detentions cost over a quarter of a billion dollars over five years.
  • 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.
  • 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. The United Nations has twice asked Canada to end this practice. 146 doctors, nurses and social workers and 109 lawyers called on Ontario to end the province’s deal with Ottawa that allows the jailing of immigration detainees in provincial prisons in June 2016.
  • 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. An immigration detainee does not have an automatic right of appeal.
  • If convicted for a crime, immigrants unlike citizens are punished three times. First, for the crime itself. Second, by having their immigration status revoked or if it’s in process, denied, and pushed into deportation. Third, by being jailed, in some cases indefinitely.
  • The purpose of detention is stated to be ‘flight risk’ or ‘danger to the public’. There exist no criteria to make this designation, and no appeals process or access to courts to challenge it. Immigration detention is limited to undocumented residents – who may be denied refugee claimants, migrants who overstayed their work, study or visit permits or former permanent residents who had their status revoked. Contrary to popular perception, 94.2 percent of refugees are detained on grounds other than being an alleged security threat.

#Migrant Strike Week 2 – Detainees running out of time, CBSA trying to break the strike

IMG_6255Today, immigration detainees in two prisons in Ontario are beginning the third week of their hunger strike. The last few days have been extremely hard on hunger-striking detainees, please read below to see why.

As Dr Michelle Fraser recently explained,

“By now their bodies have switched to emergency energy sources causing a buildup of metabolic byproducts that makes them feel unwell. They are experiencing lightheadedness, heart palpitations, and feelings of weakness. They feel chilled, they have headaches, and they feel generally unwell. Their mood and mental functioning are affected leading to irritability, apathy, and mental lethargy.”

This is a crisis and we need your support to make sure that Minister Goodale does the right thing and meet with the detainees before a tragedy occurs.

Ask him to meet the detainees.
613-947-1153 / @RalphGoodale /
If you are will an organization, please write a letter to Minister Goodale asking him to meet with detainees. Email the letter to

Here’s a recap of what’s happened in Week 2. For Week 1 recap, click here.

On July 18, organizers in Peterborough visited MP Maryam Monsef’s office demanding she support immigration detainees. See pictures here. Activists also did a solidarity banner drop in Vancouver. On that same day we heard reports that guards were placing food plates inside the cells so that hunger striking detainees had to stare at their food, rather than not serving those who were refusing.

On July 19, protesters were outside a secretive immigration consultation with Minister McCallum in attendance in Toronto, while indigenous activists and allies confronted Minister Ralph Goodale in Regina demanding that he meet with immigration detainees. See pictures here. Instead of agreeing to meet, Minister Goodale published a blog in Huffington Post.

The same day we released a statement in response to SIU’s brutal and dehumanizing press release about Abdurahman’s death. It’s the most read post on our site, read it here.

On July 20th, we responded to Minister Goodale’s blog with our own, insisting he must act before more people suffer or die. Read it here.

On July 21st, activists in Ottawa protested outside the Ministry of Public Safety’s offices demanding that Goodale meet with immigration detainees. See photos and report-back here.

In Toronto, doctors, lawyers and immigration detainees did a press conference calling on Ontario to step in and urge the Federal government to meet with detainees.

We also shared a story of Black youth and allies visiting detainees in Lindsay.

July 22 – 24, On Friday, End Immigration Detention Peterborough released an open letter to MP Maryam Monsef, read it here.

Disturbingly, we are seeing the prison authorities, likely under CBSA instructions, doing everything in their power to break the strike. One of the key strike organizers is being deported today, Monday July 25th after 26 months in prison. Others are being threatened with transfers, and some long-term detainees are being promised release but no real steps have been taken.

Detainees are also not being allowed out of their cells most of the time, and this lockdown is making it difficult for detainees to organize and communicate with each other and those on the outside. As some detainees get sick, or are under enormous pressure, they are choosing to start eating. We honor their courage for continuing for so long. Others are continuing to refuse food. We will support them, no matter what they decide. 

Please take action today by calling, emailing and tweeting, see above for contact info. 



SIU releases graphic and dehumanizing report of Abdurahman’s last breath

 From: "Carl, Julie" Subject: FW: Abdurahman Ibrahim Hassan Date: 18 June, 2015 5:25:27 PM EDT To: Photodesk - Toronto Star Are these good enough to run? -----Original Message----- From: Kelly, Frances Sent: Thursday, June 18, 2015 5:23 PM To: Gentle, Irene Cc: Carl, Julie Subject: FW: Abdurahman Ibrahim Hassan -----Original Message----- From: Keung, Nicholas Sent: Thursday, June 18, 2015 5:22 PM To: Photodesk - Toronto Star Cc: Kelly, Frances Subject: Abdurahman Ibrahim Hassan

Trigger warning for descriptions of police and medical abuse. 

At 6:20pm, last Friday evening, the Ontario Special Investigations Unit (SIU) released its decision to not charge police officers for restraining Abdurahman Ibrahim Hassan as he died on June 11, 2015. The decision was issued in the form of a press release, and the details were not shared with the family prior to it being sent to the media.

The press release is brutal, dehumanizing and graphic, and we have struggled with how to share it with you.  

Since we’ve read the press release, many of us have cried for hours. Those of us that have suffered directly or seen our loved ones experience imprisonment, denial of immigration status, medical pathologization, and disturbing abuse for mental health illnesses are devastated and filled with rage. We have found solace in all the healthy and unhealthy ways we know how to cope. For us, and possibly for you, this press release is beyond triggering.

The SIU press release – which doesn’t even name him – describes Abdurahman’s death throes in dispassionate detail: armed police officers using a rolled towel to hold down his face until he dies. This press release paints a picture of Abdurahman that must be fought and negated.

Abdurahman was a joyous man. He loved his nieces and nephews and wrote them long letters promising to take them to amusement parks when he was finally released. He was funny and joked with fellow prisoners, nurses, even the corrections staff.

He had a limp – a result some say of being beaten in prison. He had diabetes, and sleep apnea, and a number of psychological ailments for which he took medication. All this, at a young age of 39. A result of a difficult life, yet he spread happiness everywhere he went.

He came to Canada as a refugee in the 1993 from war-torn Somalia. He was a teenager. While his siblings and mother were granted permanent residency status, his permanent residency was delayed and then denied because of petty crimes. The instability of living without status worsened his psychological health. In 2012, he was separated from his sister, nieces and nephews and jailed in a maximum security prison, Central East Correctional Centre (CECC), on behalf of Canada Border Services Agency. At monthly hearings, government lawyers argued that he would be deported soon, but deportations to Somalia are almost impossible so he remained indefinitely imprisoned for over three years until his untimely death.

The press release details how Abdurahman was sedated after being pinned down by police officers once already. Nurses and police officers re-entered the room to clean it, and when he woke up, they held him down until he died. The release outlines a few very specific actions by Abdurrahman, that are intended to dehumanize him. In it, the SIU insists that medical asphyxiation was not deemed a cause of death so the officers cannot be held liable. To date, more than a year later, no cause of death has been issued at all.

There are many questions, from the particular to the general. Why was Abdurahman held down with a towel wrapped around his face? Why did police officers hold him down without being instructed to do? What is the cause of death? What happened in the day leading up to his death – what care was provided? How was he treated in immigration detention? Did he get the supports he needed? Why was he in a maximum security prison for three years without trial or charges? Why can Somalia not issue travel documents and knowing that it can’t why does Canada indefinitely detain migrants where no deportation is possible? Why was Abdurahman’s refugee status revoked? Why was Abdurahman jailed and not given support when he first arrived in Canada? Why did his family flee Somalia?

We know some of the answers for they lie in the interlocking systems of imperialism, capitalism, racism particularly anti-Black racism, ableism, the prison industrial system and lack of support for people with mental health illness. The system did not fail Abdurahman, it worked exactly as intended.

The press release outlines the minutes before his death as utterly rational. The nurses and police officers were simply trying to clean, we are told. His life, his body deemed filth, had to be quickly sanitized. At issue, we are told, was his resistance, not all of the ways in which he was denigrated till he arrived in that bed. Everything seems routine and by the book.

The SIU an unaccountable and opaque system unlike few others has cleared police officers of any wrongdoing. A Coroner’s inquest will take place in two years but that will make no finding of guilt and its recommendations do not need to be implemented. The CBSA, as always, has nothing to say. This is how they want Abdi’s story to end, without anyone being held accountable. This we refuse. We indict all the systems that colluded in his death and we commit yet again to fighting them. Today, about 50 men are on hunger strike. Each of them fears dying like Abdurahman. This, we cannot allow. 

In hospitals, corners are disliked, they are seen as places for germs to aggregate–hard to sanitize. In prisons, human beings are isolated into individual cages, sometimes in segregation, because our oppressors know the power of aggregated human bodies. Let us be the germs in every crack. Let us aggregate. Let us build movements stronger than their prison walls.

Today we remember Abdurahman’s smile, his love, his desire for life and his desire for freedom. Today we insist even more passionately, not one more. End immigration detention.

You can read the SIU report here (all of the trigger warnings), but please share this blog post and not the SIU report itself as it is traumatizing to many:

In grief and hope,
Members of End Immigration Detention Network



#MigrantStrike – Week 1 Reportback

Ask him to meet the detainees.
613-947-1153 / @RalphGoodale /
If you are will an organization, please write a letter to Minister Goodale asking him to meet with detainees.
Email the letter to

On July 11th, about 50 immigration detainees – mostly Black and Brown men – at Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay, and the Toronto East Detention Centre in Scarborough initiated a hunger strike. They are demanding a meeting with Minister Ralph Goodale to end their indefinite detentions in maximum security prisons.

Detainees called Goodale’s office, but were denied access to the Minister. His receptionist insisted that he and his staff are unable to speak to members of the public, and refused to provide further assistance in facilitating a meeting between Goodale and the striking detainees. While Minister Goodale’s office was brushing detainees offices, his office issued a media statement insisting that their approach to immigration detention was “world-class, including methods of enforcement, with effective transparency and accountability”. The Minister also insisted that immigration detention was a ‘last resort, after all other alternatives are explored’.

>>> Hear immigration detainee Toby Clark explain why they started the Hunger Strike.

On July 12th, hundreds of us called and tweeted Minister Goodale and we released a statement exposing Goodale’s lies while more people joined the hunger strike. We asked, at least three people have died in immigration detention since the Liberals took power, the Minister wants to believe that there was no other option but to let them die? How is not talking to the people directly affected transparent and accountable?

>>> Read our update here.

On July 13th, immigration detainees were locked up for 22 hours, from 6pm the night before in an obvious attempt to break morale and silence detainees. Despite this our spokespeople did 15 CBC interviews across the country and media reports continue to appear. Phone calls continue to flood Minister Goodale’s offices.

>>>> Hear immigration detainee Patrick explain the experience of the lock-down and how migrants continue to strike.

On July 14th, Colonialism No More – Solidarity Camp Regina, 88 day strong and ongoing encampment at Indigenous and North Affairs Canada (INAC) offices in Saskatchewan offered support for ‪#‎MigrantStrike‬ by organizing a picket at Minister Ralph Goodale’s office. We are greatly moved by this show of solidarity and uniting of struggles. See a picture here. On the same day, 65 health professionals wrote a letter to Minister Goodale urging him to meet immigration detainees.

>>>> See a self-portrait and poem by R.R who is on immigration detention where he explains his feeling of loss and stuck in limbo.

On July 15th,  we learned that the Ontario Special Investigations Unit (SIU), after a year of investigations, decided not to charge police officers in Abdurahman Ibrahim Hassan’s death. The same day the Coroner’s office announced a Coroner’s Inquest into his death.
It came as no surprise to any of us that the SIU found police not-guilty in the case of another Black Somali refugee’s death. The SIU consists of former cops investigating current cops and letting them free time and again for murder. At the same time we insisted that if Abdurrahman was not in detention, he would be alive.

>>>> While we are still figuring out how to share the very painful SIU press release with you, we spend Friday remembering the 15 people who have died in detention, 3 in just the last five months. See their names here.

On July 16 and 17, Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) staff have been meeting with detainees, offering to separate and expedite some files for release. Detainees are refusing this divide and rule strategy. CBSA has said that changes are coming in the Fall and detainees are demanding changes in writing from Minister Goodale.

CBSA staff has also tried to separate some strike organizer and try to transfer them to other prisons, but thus far all of them have refused.

>>>> #MigrantStrike continues. Here is some selected mainstream media coverage on the strike.