Canadian Government Pledges $138 Million To Upgrade Immigration Detention Centers And Increase Availability Of Alternatives To Detention
Canada’s Public Safety Minister, Ralph Goodale, stated on August 15, 2016, that the federal government will invest $138 million to reform the current immigration detention system by upgrading detention centers and increasing availability of alternatives to detention. The Minister stated that the government’s objective with the reform is to make immigration detention a means of last resort.
As part of the makeover, the federal government aims to reduce using jails to hold immigration detainees, as well as avoiding the detention of minors. Other reform objectives include exploring alternatives to detention such as supervision and surveillance, improving the physical and mental health care offered to detainees, and increasing transparency.
The government’s plan to reform Canada’s immigration detention comes after heavy criticism of the system over the past few years. Immigration and refugee lawyers, human rights groups, and agencies such as the Red Cross have expressed concern over the human rights violations and substandard treatment faced by detainees in immigration custody. Detention centers are currently plagued with overcrowding, inadequate mental health care, and intermingling with the criminal population if detainees are placed in provincial jails. Over the last decade, at least fifteen individuals have also died in immigration custody, including 3 deaths this year alone. Minister Goodale stated that the proposed reform is meant to address these problems and concerns.
In light of the scrutiny faced by Canada’s immigration system, both domestically and internationally, Minister’s Goodale’s announcement could not arguably have come at a better time. In a recent interview, with CBC for a news story, Ms. Arghavan Gerami of Gerami Law PC stated that she is happy to see the federal government allocate funding to address problems with detention. She has handled several dozen cases involving immigration detainees and hopes to finally see changes in how people are treated. She does not want to see the allocated funding be used just to improve and expand the CBSA detention centers. Instead, she hopes the funding goes to support services like mental health, with an emphasis on alternatives to detention.
Some of the Canada’s immigration lawyers share these views on to how the new funding will be used, arguing that overhauling the system should aim at keeping people out of detention, not building new detention centers and beds. As the federal government begins to implement the reform, it will remain to be seen as to whether these reservations are warranted or whether immigration detention practices in Canada will finally see a much-needed and long-overdue transformation.