Media Release: Federal court questions border enforcement on constitutionality of indefinite detention

 

MAY 15, 2017

Media Contact: Nisha Toomey, 647-270-3025

Federal court questions border enforcement on constitutionality of indefinite detention

Toronto, May 15, 2017 — The Federal Court of Canada is set to hear a historic case today, challenging the constitutionality of Canada’s immigration law and the federal government’s much-criticized practice of indefinite 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.

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. EIDN’s case is based on evidence from two of its members who have organised with hundreds of detainees; three legal experts; and five former detainees and family members.

“It really comes down to one question for the federal government. How long can someone be held before it becomes indefinite?” said EIDN member Nisha Toomey, surrounded by families of detainees and dozens of supporters outside the court Monday. “People have been held for years on end, some have died in detention. Trudeau must address the lack of policies limiting detention in Canada. We need a 90-day-limit.”

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. EIDN is asking the court to instruct the federal government to create legislative reform to end indefinite detention.

Alvin Brown, on whom today’s case is based, came to Canada at the age of 7, where he was a permanent resident. He spent almost 5 years detained for immigration purposes in maximum security prisons, before his deportation and resulting separation from his family was expedited when his case came before the Ontario courts in August, 2016.

“It was horrible, I would have rather been dead than detained, not knowing when I would be released,” said Brown speaking from Jamaica this week. “It was traumatizing; I spent five years in there and I still can’t get over it. The experience is trapped in my mind.”

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.  

Kimora, whose husband has been detained in maximum-security immigration prisons for eight months, spoke outside the federal court about the devastating impact indefinite detention has a on families.

“We didn’t have any chance to prepare, they [CBSA] just took him…He’s missed the kids’ birthdays. For a long time, I had to tell them that their father was working out of town, but now they know. Every day they are reminded of his absence,” said 33-year-old Kimora, who has lived in Canada for 25 years and resides with their three children in Oakville. “Canada says it supports family unification, but my husband is locked up indefinitely in a prison, separated from his children.”

Concerns have also been raised about the arbitrary or targeted nature of immigration detention. The majority of detainees EIDN has worked with are black, which runs counter to charter section 15, which guarantees the right to equality.

“Indefinite immigration detention violates international legal norms,” said MacDonald Scott, an immigration consultant who has provided legal support on the federal court case. Recently in the case of Kashif Ali, a Superior Court judge asked the government, how long is indefinite? Give me a time when it becomes indefinite? The government could not provide a time and clearly believes they can hold people as long as they like.”

 

The hearing at the federal court will run Monday and Tuesday of this week. EIDN affidavits are available upon request.

Source: endimmigrationdetention.com

 

Background and Key Facts

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

END IMMIGRATION DETENTION NETWORK

MEDIA ADVISORY

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)

BACKGROUND

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.  

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.

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Source
www.endimmigrationdetention.com

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

MEDIA RELEASE

END IMMIGRATION DETENTION NETWORK

http://www.endimmigrationdetention.com

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.

July #MigrantStrike Media

Media Contacts:

Tings Chak, 416-276-2174, End Immigration Detention Network

Media Advisories

July 21: As time runs out for federal immigration detainees in provincial custody, advocates urge Ontario to step in
July 15: No answers in mysterious death of immigration detainee increases calls for end to detentions
July 12: Goodale’s ‘Last Resort’ Detentions, Indefinite and Deadly
July 11: Immigration detainees refusing food to call for end to indefinite maximum-security detention

For background information, email migrantstrike@gmail.com

Media Coverage

Release: Immigration detainees call for end to imprisonment in Ontario’s maximum security prisons again

Toronto — Over 85 immigration detainees in Ontario’s Central East Correctional Centre (CECC) in Lindsay are calling on MPP David Orazietti, Ontario’s new Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services to end their detention in maximum security prisons. This call comes on the heels of open letters by 146 doctors, nurses and social workers and 109 lawyers demanding an end to the province’s deal with Ottawa that allows the jailing of immigration detainees in provincial prisons. Immigration detention is imprisonment without charges or trial.

Ebrahim Toure, forty-five, from Guinea who has been detained for three years and seven months at CECC without cause says, “Everyone in here has mental health problems. Once a month a psychiatrist comes to talk to you, and they only give you a sleeping pill. This is not helping my mental health, it’s making me sleep, that’s it. We don’t want to sleep, we want to be healthy. We are refugees being treated like bad people and nothing ever changes. Immigration detention needs to stop now.” Continue reading

Family of man who died in immigration detention seeking answers

Toronto — Grieving parents and siblings of Francisco Javier Romero Astorga, who died in immigration detention on March 13th, will be asking the Canadian public for help to obtain answers about Francisco’s death in a press conference via Skype on March 23, 2016. The Canada Border Services Agency or the federal government have not even publicly released Francisco’s name and are yet to explain the cause of Francisco’s mysterious death in immigration detention. End Immigration Detention Network will join them in calling for answers and demanding an end to immigration detention.

Francisco is the 14th person known to have died in while being detained by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), and is the second person to die in CBSA custody in the span of a week. On March 7, 64 year old refugee Melkioro Gahungu committed suicide under CBSA’s watch in immigration detention rather than be deported to Burundi from where he fled. Currently a protest is underway outside Toronto Police Headquarters by Black Lives Matter Toronto against a number of instances of anti-Black violence in Canada including Mr Gahungu’s death.

WHAT: Parents and siblings of Francisco Javier Romero Astorga from Chile will share information about their brother and release an open letter calling for an explanation for his death. 
 

WHEN: 1pm, Wednesday, March 23, 2016

WHERE: Suite 223, 720 Spadina Avenue, Toronto
 
VISUALS: Parents and siblings of Francisco on Skype, pictures of Francisco and his family. 
 
Interviews before and after with the family will not be possible, so members of the press are encouraged to attend the press conference on March 23.

Continue reading