The Increasing Criminalization of Mental Health has Immigration Lawyers and Physicians in Canada Concerned
When a physician finds out their patient is contemplating suicide, the response will generally be concern. Newcomers undergo a health assessment once they arrive in the country, many of whom are prone to mental health issues after having experienced trauma and war. Immigration lawyers find many refugees that seek asylum in Canada are fleeing torture and death. Recent stories have been coming to light where refugee claimants have been needlessly held or detained, and often the reason for detainment is due to the individual’s mental health status rather than any threat they pose to society.
June 20th is World Refugee Day. “’We Have No Rights’: Arbitrary imprisonment and cruel treatment of migrants with mental health issues in Canada” was released by the University of Toronto one year ago to examine the conditions with which migrants experience detainment. The publication was researched and written by two law students enrolled in the IHRP’s award-winning legal clinic in international human rights, and now, just over a year later, these issues are coming to light in the public eye. Recently, Ontario physicians called for change, stating:
“We believe no one should be transferred to jail for being sick and we are joining more than 140 health-care providers in calling for an immediate end to the transfer of immigration detainees to jails in Ontario.”
Detention and jail time can aggravate any mental health concerns an individual is already experiencing. Many detainees, upon the discovery of a mental or physical illness, are sent to a maximum-security prison instead of receiving treatment.
The International Human Rights Program is in agreement with this sentiment, as it has reported that the Canada Border Services Agency’s (CBSA) treatment of non-citizens with mental health issues breaches Canada’s international human rights obligations. It violates an individual’s right to health, and often involves a vulnerable person spending time—sometimes years—in a maximum security prison with convicted criminals. These individuals have often committed no crime, and are released without charges.
The CBSA is being examined, and many are seeking them to be held accountable for the conditions refugees and migrants experience when they are detained. Canada had detained just under 10,000 immigration detainees in 2012 (a more recent statistic is not available). Many of these detainees are refugees seeking asylum from their home countries or government.
For immigrants who feel they are being unjustly served by Canada’s detention system, Canadian legal services are here to help. Canadian immigration law firms offer advice and assistance in legal appeals, fighting removals, accessing temporary residency, and making refugee claims. There are services available to those who have experienced trauma, or are coming to Canada with mental health issues. Immigration lawyers can help make sure refugees and migrants access the appropriate services, receiving treatment and support instead of ending up in detainment.