MEDIA ADVISORY: Federal Court to hear historic constitutional challenge to immigration detention



MAY 11, 2017

Media Contact: Nisha Toomey, 647-270-3025

Federal Court to hear historic constitutional challenge to immigration detention

Toronto, May 11, 2017 — The Federal Court of Canada is set to hear a historic case on Monday, May 15, challenging the constitutionality of Canada’s immigration law and the federal government’s much-criticized practice of indefinite immigration detention. This is the first time that Canada Border Services Agency, which is not subject to an oversight body, will be called on to justify its practice of long-term imprisonment.

Canada is one of the few western countries without a time limit on detentions.  Detainees, advocates, and the United Nations have criticized the lack of fair judicial oversight in the federal system. The End Immigration Detention Network (EIDN), a party in the case, will be presenting arguments that indefinite immigration detention is in violation of international law and sections 7, 9, and 12 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  

WHEN: 8:30am, May 15, 2017

WHERE: Federal Court of Canada, 180 Queen St. W, Toronto

SPEAKERS: Kimora (Wife of current immigration detainee), Mac Scott (Immigration Consultant), Nisha Toomey (End Immigration Detention Network)


Alvin Brown is a Jamaican citizen who came to Canada at the age of 7.  He spent almost 5 years in immigration detention in maximum security prisons, separated from his children, and denied access to proper mental health supports.  Mr. Brown, who was a permanent resident, is arguing that the entire detention review system is unconstitutional because there is no limit to the length of detention. When Mr. Brown’s case under the Habeas Corpus Act reached the Ontario Superior Court in September 2016, the federal government expedited his deportation.  He was sent back to Jamaica and separated from his family and community.   

EIDN, an immigration detention watchdog, has been added as a party to the case, given their long-standing interest in supporting past and present detainees, and their families. EIDN has consistently called for a 90 day limit on detentions to bring Canada in line with international norms, as an interim step to ending the practice entirely.

In August, 2016, Federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale responded to a 19-day hunger strike by immigration detainees in Lindsay’s Central Correctional Centre, by allotting $138 million to expand immigration prisons in Canada rather than creating laws to end indefinite detention.

At least 15 people have died in Canadian immigration custody since 2000. The United Nations has repeatedly criticized Canada for refusing to introduce legislation that would place a 90-day limit on immigration detention.

In a recent Ontario Superior Court decision, Justice Ian Nordheimer called Kashif Ali’s 7 year long detention ordeal, “unacceptable” and ordered his immediate release.  

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