BC Corrections will provide CBSA with 12 months’ written notice
MIKE Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, on Thursday announced that BC Corrections was ending its arrangement with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) on the management of individuals held under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
Farnworth said in a statement: “In the fall of 2021, I committed to a review of BC Corrections’ arrangement with the CBSA on holding immigration detainees in provincial correctional centres. This review examined all aspects of the arrangement, including its effect on public safety and whether it aligns with the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and expectations set by Canadian courts.
“As part of the review, BC Corrections engaged with multiple external stakeholders and advocacy groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, and incorporated their input.
“The review brought to light that aspects of the arrangement do not align with our government’s commitment to upholding human-rights standards or our dedication to pursuing social justice and equity for everyone.
“In light of these findings, the Province is ending its arrangement with the CBSA. BC Corrections will provide the CBSA with 12 months’ written notice as required under the current arrangement.
“BC Corrections is committed to working with the CBSA to develop a safe and efficient transition plan that achieves our common commitment to public safety while ensuring the rights of individuals are preserved and protected.”
B.C.’S Human Rights Commissioner Kasari Govender commended the provincial government for cancelling its agreement with Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and ending the detention of migrants in provincial jails.
“Migrants will no longer be put in B.C. jails simply for administrative reasons like missing documentation once this change takes effect. CBSA may still hold migrants in a detention centre, but this a significant first step towards affirming the human rights of detainees. I applaud B.C. for take this important step and I hope that other provinces will follow suit,” she said.
In March, Govender had urged B.C. to cancel its agreement with CBSA in a submission to the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General .
“According to CBSA data, 94 per cent of immigration detainees are held for administrative reasons and pose no risk to the public. Detaining innocent migrants in jails is cruel, unjust and violates human rights commitments,” said Govender. “Now, it is up to the federal government to abolish all migrant detention and expand the use of community-based alternatives that support individuals.”
Almost nine thousand people across Canada, including 138 children, were forced into detention in the year prior to the pandemic (Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International report). Migrants report being handcuffed, shackled, searched, subjected to solitary confinement, restricted to small spaces with rigid routines, and placed under constant surveillance with severely limited access to the outside world.
“There is strong evidence that racialized people and those with disabilities experience harsher treatment and are detained for longer periods of time,” said Govender. “Across Canada, migrants are detained for non-criminal purposes and for indefinite periods of time, which violates international human rights law and can result in devastating impacts on migrants’ health and well-being.”