Media Release: Doctors raise the alarm on hunger-strike in immigration prison

Ontario, July 14, 2016 1pm – 68 doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals released an open letter to Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale on Thursday supporting the demands of immigration detainees on hunger strike. Over 50 immigration detainees are on day four of a hunger strike at two maximum security jails in Ontario – the Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay and the Toronto East Detention Centre in Scarborough. The detainees demand an end to indefinite immigration detention and a meeting with Minister Goodale.

Emergency Physician Dr. Tarek Loubani has been involved with the detainees’ struggle since his own detention without charge and subsequent hunger strike in Egypt in 2013. “Over 150,000 people rallied behind me when I was detained in Egypt without trial or charge. The Canadian government advocated on my behalf. It is disappointing and hypocritical that Canada continues its own archaic practice of indefinitely imprisoning migrants. I stand in solidarity with the detainees and call for Minister Goodale to meet with them to hear their grievances and to end maximum security indefinite immigration detention.”

“The health impacts of the hunger strike could be grave. Many detainees have chronic illnesses which could be worsened by refusing food” adds Family Physician Dr Michelle Fraser. “This is a healthcare crisis, but also a political crisis. Minister Goodale oversees the Canadian Border Services Agency and Correctional Services Canada and he has the power and the responsibility to meet with the detainees and to end indefinite immigration detention.”

The healthcare providers note that three detainees have died in detention in 2016, bringing the number of deaths while in immigration detention to at least fifteen since 2000.

Psychiatrist Dr. Michaela Beder draws attention to the impact of indefinite detention on the mental health of detainees. “We see elevated levels of mental illness among immigration detainees, including depression, PTSD and suicidality. Those believed to be suicidal or seriously mentally ill are often transferred from detention facilities to jail, where they may even be kept in solitary confinement; this worsens their mental illness and can be further traumatizing.”

This letter follows an open letter by healthcare providers in May, addressed to former Ontario Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Yasir Naqvi.

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Open Letter To Minister Goodale

July 14, 2016

The Honorable Ralph Goodale
Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
269 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0P8
Canada

cc: The Honorable John McCallum, Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship

Dear Minister Goodale,

Re: Hunger strike by immigration detainees requesting a meeting with Minister Goodale

We are doctors, nurses, and healthcare providers working in Canada. It has come to our attention that over 50 men on immigration hold are once again engaging in a hunger strike. They are determined to remain without food until they are granted a meeting with you, Minister Goodale. They have been calling for an end to indefinite immigration detention and inhumane conditions and are now asking to bring their concerns to you in person.

This is the third time in as many years that men on indefinite immigration hold – people held in maximum security prisons without charges or trial – have gone on hunger strike. As healthcare providers it concerns us when individuals feel compelled to put their physical and mental health in jeopardy in order to win an audience with elected officials. They feel unheard and unacknowledged despite repeated calls to your office and to the offices of other Members of Parliament, multiple petitions and letters, and unsatisfactory meetings with representatives of the Canadian Border Services Agency.

We are concerned that a continuing hunger strike will put already vulnerable people at further risk of physical and mental harm. Three men have died while in immigration detention since you became Minister only nine months ago. At least fifteen have died while in the custody of the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) since 2000.

As healthcare providers concerned with the wellbeing of the detainees we urge you to meet with the detainees promptly to hear their grievances and their demand for an end to indefinite immigration detention.

Sincerely,

Dr. Tarek Loubani, MD, CCFP (EM)
Emergency Department Physician and Assistant Professor
Western University Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry

Dr. Michelle Fraser, MD, CCFP
Family Physician

Dr. Michaela Beder, MD, FRCPC
Psychiatrist and Lecturer, University of Toronto

Dr. Ritika Goel, MD, MPH, CCFP
Family Physician and Lecturer, University of Toronto

Dr. Abeer Majeed, MD, CCFP
Primary Care Physician

Dr. Adrienne Batke, MA, MD
Resident in Psychiatry, University of Toronto

Dr. Ahmed Bayoumi MD, MSc, FRCPC
University of Toronto

Dr. Amanda Murdoch, MD, M.Sc.
Family Medicine Resident, Queen’s University

Dr. Anne Biringer MD, CCFP, FCFP
Associate Professor of Family and Community Medicine, University of Toronto

Dr. Arash Nakhost, MD RFCPC
Psychiatrist

Dr. Arfeen Malick, MD, MSc
Psychiatry Resident, University of Toronto

Dr. Azad Mashari, MD, FRCPC
Anesthesiologist, University Health Network
Lecturer, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto

Dr. Bethany Scott, MD, CCFP
Family Physician

Dr. Brendan Irish, MD
Family Medicine Resident, Queen’s University

Dr. Britt Lehmann-Bender, MD, CCFP
Family Physician and Hospitalist, Peterborough Regional Health Center

Dr. Cassandra Lin, MD, CCFP
Family Physician

Dr. Charu Prasad, MD
Resident in Pediatrics

Dr. Claire Kenny-Scherber, MD, CCFP, BSc(Eng), IBCLC
Family Physician

Dr. Chloe Corbeil, MD
Family Medicine Resident

Dr. Colin Matheson, MD, CCFP
Family Physician

Dr. David Daien MD, CCFP
Family Physician and Lecturer, University of Toronto
Division Head Primary Care, Trillium

Dr. Donald E. Payne, MD, FRCP(C)
Psychiatrist

Dr. E. Kenneth Ranney, MD, FRCPC, FCAP, F.C.A.C.B
Pathologist and Clinical Biochemist, retired

Dr. Faiza Majeed, MD, CCFP
Family Physician

Dr. Fatima Uddin, MD, CCFP
Family Physician

Dr. James Deutsch, MD, PhD, FRCP(C).
Dept. of Psychiatry, University of Toronto

Dr. Jessi Dobyns, MD, CCFP
Family Physician

Dr. Jessica Braidek, MD
Resident in Psychiatry

Dr. Jim Sugiyama MD

Dr. Jinghao Mary Yang, MD,
Resident in Psychiatry, University of Toronto

Dr. Jocelyn Howard, MD, CCFP
Family Physician

Dr. John Beamish MD, FCFP CCFP(PC)
Family Physician

Dr. Joshua D. Rosenblat, MD,
Resident of Psychiatry

Dr. June Lam, MD
Resident of Psychiatry, University of Toronto

Dr. Kate Hayman, MD, MPH, FRCPC
Emergency Physician, University Health Network

Dr. Katie Dorman, MD, MSc, CCFP
Family Physician and Assistant Professor, Adjunct, Queen’s University

Dr. Ketan Vegda, MD, FRCPC,
Psychiatrist, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
Lecturer, University of Toronto

Dr. Krista Margeson, MD, CCFP
Family Physician

Dr. Laura Chertkow, MD, MPH

Dr. Lucy Barker, MD
Resident of Psychiatry

Dr. Matthew Piamonte, MD, CCFP
Family Physician

Dr. Melini Gupta, MD
Resident Physician

Dr. Michael Nartey, MD, CCFP
Family Physician

Dr. Michelle Vilcini, MD CCFP
Assistant Professor, Queen’s University

Dr. Mimmi Thompson, MD,
Family Medicine Resident

Dr. Miriam Garfinkle
Retired Primary Care Physician

Dr. Najib Safieddine, MD, FRCSC
Assistant Professor, University of Toronto

Dr. Nanky Rai, MD, MPH

Dr. Nikki Bozinoff, MD, CCFP

Dr. Nisha Ravichandiran, MD, CCFP

Dr. Parul Agarwal, MD, FRCPC
Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, Toronto

Dr. Priyadarshani Raju, MD, FRCPC
Psychiatrist and Lecturer, University of Toronto

Dr. Rosana Salvaterra, MD, MSc, FRCPC
Public Health Physician

Dr. Susan Gleeson, MD, CCFP
Family Physician

Dr. Samantha Green, MD, CCFP
Family Physician and Lecturer, University of Toronto

Dr. Shira Taylor, MD, CCFP
GP Psychotherapist

Dr. Skylar Van Osch MD, CCFP
Family Physician and Clinical Faculty, University of British Columbia and University of Victoria

Dr Sonal Patel, MD, CCFP
Family Physician

Dr. Supriya Singh, MD
Orthopedic Surgery Resident

Dr. Tiffany Chow, BMSc, MD,
Family Medicine Resident

Dr. Zahra Jaffer, MB ChB, CCFP
Family Physician and Assistant Professor, Queen’s University
Lecturer, University of Toronto

Jennifer Rosser, Peer Support Specialist, RSSW
St. Michael’s Hospital/Cota FOCUS Community Mental Health Team

Kathy Hardill, RNEC
Primary Health Care Nurse Practitioner

Lebei Pi, MD Candidate 2017
University of Toronto

Lori Webster RN

Marcella Jones, MPH, Medical Student
University of Toronto

Melanie Spence, BA, BScN, RN

Scott Weinstein, RN

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

MEDIA RELEASE
June 15, 2016

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 theprovince’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.”

One-third of all immigration detainees in Canada are held in Ontario provincial prisons, which are designed and operated for people facing criminal charges or serving criminal sentences. Immigration detainees are held here even though immigration is a federal administrative matter and immigration detainees are not serving sentences. Of the 15 known deaths in Canada Border Services Agency’s (CBSA) care, at least 8 were being held in Ontario provincial prisons. Two of these people, Francisco Romero Astorga and Melkioro Gahungu, died in the same week in March of this year.

“Immigration detainees, doctors, lawyers and community organizations are all calling for the same thing – an end to maximum security imprisonment in Ontario prisons,” says Karin Baqi of End Immigration Detention Network. “When will Ontario do the right thing and stop doing immigration enforcement’s dirty work? They can’t keep people alive, so they shouldn’t be jailing them.”

“I hope that this call is the last call needed to finally put an end to all detentions,” adds AB, forty, who has been in Canada since 1992 and been in detention since August 2015. “I have schizophrenia and am bipolar and am living proof that maximum security imprisonment causes further mental health detriment. Since I’ve been detained, and with the lock-downs in Lindsay I’ve had mental health problems. I’ve been seeing stuff, hearing stuff, and I’m going through depression because of the uncertainty of not knowing when I’m gonna get out and if I go back to Jamaica how am I going to be treated based on my sexual orientation.”

A secretive contract between Ontario and Canada released by the End Immigration Detention Networkshows that Ontario directly profits from these detentions, getting paid 20% more than the actual cost of jailing detainees.

Immigration detainees at Central East Correctional Centre have been calling for a 90 day limit on detentions, an overhaul of the judicial review process and an end to maximum security imprisonment since September 2013.

Media contact: Karin Baqi, 647-402-4048, End Immigration Detention Network

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Please Tweet in support of this campaign support this campaign and like/share our Facebook page.

For more information see also the End Immigration Detention Network website: EIDN

 

A Letter from Ontario Lawyers and Legal Scholars to Hon Minister Naqvi on the Incarceration of Immigration Detainees

 

May 26, 2016

Hon. Yasir Naqvi
Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services
18th Floor, George Drew Building
25 Grosvenor Street
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1Y6

Dear Minister,

Re: Request to cancel the federal-provincial agreement that permits the incarceration of immigration detainees in Ontario’s prisons

We are Ontario lawyers and legal scholars with expertise in refugee and immigration law. We are writing to add our voices to the demand for an end to the incarceration of immigration detainees, including those who are mentally ill, in Ontario’s jails.

Doctors and other healthcare providers across the province set out their concerns about this practice in their open letter to you of May 17, 2016. Their concerns about the negative health implications of incarcerating immigration detainees, including in particular those who are mentally ill, in provincial prisons are profound and urgent. But there are also very serious human rights and rule of law concerns at stake. While some of these concerns are appropriately addressed to the federal government – something which we will continue to do – we write now to underscore Ontario’s concurrent responsibility and liability for the incarceration of immigration detainees in this province and for the troubling conditions to which detainees are exposed in Ontario’s jails.

As you know, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) detains thousands of non-citizens under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act each year, for a variety of reasons. These individuals are not necessarily being held because they have broken any laws, let alone criminal laws. For example, people can be detained simply because immigration authorities are verifying their identity documents. Immigration authorities routinely detain families and children, refugees and refugee claimants, and permanent residents of Canada.

Despite the non-criminal and purportedly non-punitive nature of immigration detention, many immigration detainees are nonetheless being held in maximum security provincial jails, either upon arrest or following transfer from a dedicated low security immigration holding centre. As observed by the health care professionals in their letter to you, a significant proportion of these transfers to provincial jails are based on mental health concerns. And the majority of these transfers take place in Ontario.

We are gravely concerned that there are no public laws or regulations governing when and in what circumstances an immigration detainee can be transferred to, and incarcerated in, a provincial jail. Instead, at best, transfer decisions are subject only to CBSA’s own internal policies, which appear to us to be implemented in an ad hoc, inconsistent and sometimes discriminatory basis. Immigration detainees are rarely given any notice that they are going to be transferred to a jail; are provided with no disclosure of any evidence used to inform the transfer decision; and receive no written reasons for why the transfer occurred. On one day, a detainee who has no criminal history or charge may be with her family in a low security immigration holding centre, and the next she could be wearing a prison jumpsuit and be behind bars in a maximum security prison, based on the decision of a single officer whom she may have never met. In 2013, this process led to one-third of the 7300 immigration detainees held by CBSA being incarcerated in jails across Canada.

We are alarmed by what appear to be CBSA’s arbitrary detention practices and are committed to seeking substantial reform at the federal level. Nonetheless, as Ontario lawyers and legal scholars we are equally alarmed that Ontario would agree to confine anyone in a provincial prison who is not serving a criminal sentence or awaiting trial. Prisons are part of the criminal justice system. Their principal function is to hold those charged with or convicted of criminal wrongdoing. Individuals held for immigration purposes should not be transferred to, and detained in, these institutions. This is doubly so when the individuals are suffering a pre-existing mental illness or vulnerability.

The conditions faced by immigration detainees in many Ontario jails are profoundly disturbing. As documented by the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law in their 2015 report on immigration detention, detainees with mental health illness are routinely subject to prolonged confinement in near or complete isolation. This often takes place in the solitary confinement unit of the jail. Even those who are not transferred for medical purposes are still subject to what the Superior Court has found to constitute “cruel and unusual treatment”. Describing conditions in the Maplehurst Correctional Complex in 2015, where immigration detainees spent more than half the year locked in their cells for 23 hours a day, Justice Gray stated: “The treatment of the applicants, in their totality, was so excessive as to outrage standards of decency; was disproportionate; and was degrading”: Ogiamien v. Ontario, 2016 ONSC 3080 at para. 268.

Detention under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act is a strictly federal domain; there is no requirement for Ontario to be involved or to provide jail cells for immigration detainees. Nonetheless, Ontario continues to voluntarily incarcerate immigration detainees, most recently under an agreement between the federal and Ontario governments signed on October 1, 2014. This makes the incarceration of immigration detainees, and their treatment in Ontario’s jails, as much a provincial matter as it is a federal one. In fact, in the Ogiamien judgment mentioned above, the Superior Court found that the province was jointly and severally liable with the federal government for the treatment of immigration detainees in Ontario’s jails. Any suggestion that the incarceration of immigration detainees is solely an issue for the federal Minister of Public Safety is therefore incorrect.

We call on the Government of Ontario to bring an end to this harmful practice immediately. We urge you to cancel the federal-provincial agreement that permits the incarceration of immigration detainees in Ontario’s prisons, and in the interim, during the one-year cancellation notice period, to immediately stop accepting transfers of any immigration detainee with a documented and serious medical illness, including suicidal ideation or other mental health issues.

We would be very pleased to meet with you soon to discuss these concerns, and look forward to your prompt reply.

Yours sincerely,

Sharryn J. Aiken, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, Queen’s University

Aviva Basman, Vice-President, Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, Manager / Lawyer, Refugee Law Office, Legal Aid Ontario

Raoul Boulakia, Law Society of Upper Canada Certified Specialist, Immigration and Refugee Protection Law  Signing on behalf of  Refugee Lawyers Association of Ontario

Andrew Brouwer, Law Society of Upper Canada Certified Specialist, Immigration and Refugee Protection Law, Senior Counsel – Refugee Law, Legal Aid Ontario

Catherine Bruce, Director, Refugee Law Office, Legal Aid Ontario

Barbara Jackman, LL.D., Doctor of Law (honoris causa) from the Law Society of Upper Canada, Doctor of Law (honoris causa) by the University of Windsor, Jackman, Nazami and Associates, Amicus curiae in Ogiamien v. Ontario, 2016 ONSC 3080

 Audrey Macklin, Professor & Chair in Human Rights Law, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto

 Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, Director, Equality Program, Canadian Civil Liberties Association

 Samer Muscati, Director, International Human Rights Program, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto

Anthony Navaneelan, Co-Chair of the Litigation Committee, Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, Staff Lawyer, Refugee Law Office, Legal Aid Ontario

 Sukanya Pillay, Executive Director and General Counsel, Canadian Civil Liberties Association

Sean Rehaag, Associate Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University

Geraldine Sadoway, Senior Fellow, Massey College, Professor of International Human Rights Law, Osgoode Hall Law School and Queen’s University

Peter Showler, Former Chairperson, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada

Maureen Silcoff, President, Jewish Refugee Action Network, Silcoff Shacter

Chantal Tie, Co-Chair of the Litigation Committee, Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers

Lorne Waldman, Founder and Former President, Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, Waldman and Associates

 Please note that professional affiliations are included for identification purposes only

C.C.:   Hon. Ralph Goodale, PC, MP, Minister of Public Safety

Renu Mandhane, Chief Commissioner, Ontario Human Rights Commission

ENDORSEMENTS:

 Imtenan Abd-El-Razik, Refugee Lawyer , Steering Committee Member, Canadian Association of Muslim Women in Law (CAMWL)

 John Abrams, Criminal and Immigration Lawyer

Leslie M. Anderson, Staff Lawyer, The Centre for Spanish Speaking Peoples

Elsa Arismendi, Refugee & Immigration Services GTA, Legal Aid Ontario

 Prasanna Balasundaram, Staff Lawyer – Immigration and Refugee Law, Downtown Legal Services

Karin Baqi, Staff Lawyer, South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario

Subodh S. Bharati, Barrister and Solicitor

Joshua Blum, Barrister and Solicitor

Michael Bossin, Barrister and Solicitor, Community Legal Services Ottawa Centre

 Aisling Bondy, Barrister and Solicitor, Bondy Immigration Law

  Jacqueline Bonisteel, Associate Lawyer, Corporate Immigration Law Firm

Sarah L. Boyd, Barrister and Solicitor, Jackman, Nazami & Associates

Larry Butkowsky, Barrister & Solicitor

Andrew Carvajal, Partner/Lawyer, Desloges Law Group Professional Corporation

Aurina Chatterjee, Barrister and Solicitor

Amedeo Clivio, Barrister and Solicitor, Clivio Law Professional Corporation

Edward C. Corrigan, Law Society of Upper Canada Certified Specialist, Immigration and Refugee Protection Law

Micheal Crane, Barrister and Solicitor

Aris Daghighian, Co-Chair of the Advocacy Committee, Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, Green & Spiegel LLP

Kristin Debs, Barrister and Solicitor

Laïla Demirdache, Barrister and Solicitor, Community Legal Services Ottawa Centre

Johanna Dennie, Staff Immigration and Refugee Lawyer, Legal Assistance of Windsor

Chantal Desloges, Law Society of Upper Canada Certified Specialist, Immigration and Refugee Protection Law, Senior Partner, Desloges Law Group Professional Corporation

Jacques Despatis, Barrister and Solicitor

Amy Dhillon, Barrister and Solicitor

Nadine Edirmanasinghe, Barrister and Solicitor, Edirmana Law, Former Legal Officer, UNHCR Canada

Howard P. Eisenberg, Law Society of Upper Canada Certified Specialist, Immigration and Refugee Protection Law, Eisenberg & Young LLP

Jonathan Fedder, Barrister & Solicitor

Arghavan Gerami, Managing Director, Gerami Law Professional Corporation

James Gildiner, Barrister and Solicitor, Gildiner Law

Angus Grant, Adjunct Professor of Law, Osgoode Hall Law School

Asiya Hirji, Barrister and Solicitor

Sofia Ijaz, Barrister and Solicitor

Pablo A. Irribarra, Barrister and Solicitor, Jordan Battista LLP

Peter Ivanyi, Barrister and Solicitor, Rochon Genova LLP

Meagan Johnston, Staff Lawyer, HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario

Joo Eun Kim, Staff Lawyer, Refugee Law Office, Legal Aid Ontario

Kelsey Lange, Barrister and Solicitor, Mamann, Sandaluk & Kingwell LLP

Jean Lash, Staff Lawyer, South Ottawa Community Legal Services

Timothy Leach, Barrister and Solicitor

Wennie Lee, Principal Lawyer, Lee & Company

Douglas Lehrer, Law Society of Upper Canada Certified Specialist, Immigration and Refugee Protection Law

Barbara Leiterman, Staff Lawyer, Scarborough Community Legal Services

Jamie Liew, Professor, Faculty of Law – Common Law Section, University of Ottawa, Immigration Lawyer

Benjamin Liston, Staff Lawyer, Refugee Law Office, Legal Aid Ontario

Samuel Loeb, Staff Lawyer, Refugee Law Office, Legal Aid Ontario

Elizabeth Long, Law Society of Upper Canada Certified Specialist, Immigration Law, Long Mangalji LLP

Clifford Luyt, Barrister and Solicitor, Sessional Instructor, Faculty of Law, University of Windsor

Keith MacMillan, Staff Lawyer, Refugee Law Office – Hamilton

Guidy Mamann, Law Society of Upper Canada Certified Specialist, Immigration and Refugee Protection Law, Mamann, Sandaluk and Kingwell LLP

Aadil Mangalji, Law Society of Upper Canada Certified Specialist, Immigration and Refugee Protection Law, Long Mangalji LLP

Alyssa Manning, Manager/ Lawyer, Refugee Law Office, Legal Aid Ontario

Kristin Marshall, Senior Refugee Law Trainer, Human Resources – Legal Aid Ontario

Alexandre Martel, Barrister and Solicitor

Jack C. Martin, Barrister and Solicitor

Caitlin Maxwell, Principal Lawyer, Equity Legal

Geraldine MacDonald, Barrister and Solicitor 

Clare McMullen-Crummey, Staff Lawyer, HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic of Ontario

Tara McElroy, Barrister & Solicitor, Waldman and Associates

Adolfo Morais, Associate Lawyer, WIS Workable Immigration Solutions

Leslie H. Morley, Barrister, Solicitor and Mediator

Hadayt Nazami, Barrister & Solicitor, Jackman, Nazami and Associates

Daljit Singh Nirman, Barrister and Solicitor, Nirman’s Law Professional Corporation

John Norquay, Staff Lawyer, Refugee and Immigration Services – GTA, Legal Aid Ontario

Oluwakemi Oduwole, Barrister & Solicitor

Chelsea Peterdy, Staff Lawyer, Refugee Law Office, Legal Aid Ontario

Samuel Plett, Associate Lawyer, Desloges Law Group Professional Corporation

Jennifer M. Pollock, Barrister and Solicitor, Pollock Immigration & Refugee Law Office

Debbie Rachlis, Barrister and Solicitor, Waldman and Associates

Aleksandr Radin, Barrister & Solicitor, Radin Law LLP

Daniel Radin, Barrister & Solicitor, Radin Law LLP

Katherine Ramsey, Staff Lawyer, Refugee Law Office, Legal Aid Ontario

Nicolas Ranger, Staff Lawyer, Integrated Legal Services Office, Legal Aid Ontario

Allison Rhodes, Staff Lawyer, Refugee Law Office, Legal Aid Ontario

Cheryl Robinson, Associate Lawyer, Desloges Law Group Professional Corporation

Lisa Rosenblatt, Barrister & Solicitor

Leigh Salsberg, Barrister and Solicitor

Swathi Sekhar, Barrister and Solicitor, Vecina & Sekhar Professional Corporation

Celeste Shankland, Barrister and Solicitor

Warda Shazadi Meighen, Barrister and Solicitor, Waldman & Associates

Adrienne Smith, Associate Lawyer, Jordan Battista LLP, Instructor, University of British Columbia Continuing Studies

Dushahi Sribavan, Barrister and Solicitor , Dushahi Sribavan Law Professional Corporation

Jennifer Stone, Staff Lawyer, Neighbourhood Legal Services

Evan D. J. Stringer, Barrister and Solicitor

Lily Tekle, Staff Lawyer, Refugee Law Office – Hamilton, Legal Aid Ontario

Karina Thompson, Barrister and Solicitor

 Rathika Vasavithasan, Staff Migration Lawyer, Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic

Jean Marie Vecina, Barrister and Solicitor, Vecina & Sekhar Professional Corporation

Richard Wazana, Barrister and Solicitor, WazanaLaw

Patricia Wells, Barrister and Solicitor, Patricia Wells Immigration Lawyers

Jared Will, Barrister and Solicitor, Jared Will & Associates

Mieszko J. Wlodarczyk, Barrister and Solicitor

Media

Immigration lawyers join doctors and nurses in end immigration detention campaign – May 28, 2016

Stop transfers of immigration detainees to provincial jails, lawyers tell minister, May 26, 2016

Media Release – Over 100 lawyers and legal scholars from across Ontario join call for Minister Naqvi to stop accepting immigration transfers to Ontario jails

Stop transfer of immigration detainees to provincial jails, lawyers tell minister, CBC News, May 26, 2017

Media Release – Medical Letter to Min. Naqvi to Stop Immigration Transfers to Provincial Jails – May 17, 2016

Healthcare providers urge Ontario to end immigration detention – May 17, 2016

Global News – Interview with Jana Caiskova and Dr. Michaela Beder, May 17, 2016

Toronto Star Op-Ed by Rachel Kronick and Michaela Beder – Jailing immigration detainees a gross injustice, May 18, 2016

Metro News – Healthcare providers urge Ontario to end immigration detention A group of 130 doctors, nurses and social workers is asking Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister to end the jailing of immigration detainees.- May 17, 2016

Metro Morning – Anthony Navaneelan on Immigration Detention – May 9, 2016

Metro Morning – Dr. Michaela Beder on health impacts of Immigration Detention – May 10, 2016

CBC Ontario Morning – Dr. Ritika Goel on Immigration Detention and Transfers to Provincial Jails – May 17, 2016

Metro Morning – Dr. Ritika Goel on Immigration Detention and Transfers to Provincial Jails – May 17, 2016

Federal government reviewing immigration detention process after string of deaths – May 16, 2016

Immigrant deaths expose ‘legal black hole’ of Canada’s detention system – May 17, 216

Ontario health workers demand end to ‘inhumane’ immigration detention process – May 17, 2016

“We Have No Rights” Arbitrary Imprisonment and cruel treatment of migrants with mental health issues in Canada, U of T IHRP Report

Canada keeps locking up migrant teenagers who haven’t committed any crimes, May 10, 2016

Ottawa Morning Interview with Dr. Conchita Fonseca

Toronto Star Editorial – Canada Border Services Agency must change way it treats migrants

Letter from the Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission

April 11, 2016

Hon. Yasir Naqvi
Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services
18th Floor, George Drew Building
25 Grosvenor Street
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1Y6

Dear Minister Naqvi:

I am writing today on behalf of the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC), to express our concern about detention of non-citizens in Ontario jails under the federal Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (immigration detainees).

As you know, in my previous capacity as Executive Director of the International Human Rights Program at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, I was the editor of a 2015 report on immigration detention (http://ihrp.law.utoronto.ca/We_Have_No_Rights).

According to that research, immigration detention is widespread, with thousands of non-citizens being detained in Ontario jails each year. While immigration detainees held in Ontario jails are entitled to protection under the Ontario Human Rights Code, we are concerned that the services provided to them are not consistent with the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services’ (MCSCS) obligations under the Code.

Immigration detainees are a particularly vulnerable group that often identify on intersecting Code-protected grounds such as race, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin and citizenship. We also understand that the Canada Border Services Agency routinely transfers detainees who have mental health disabilities into provincial custody. This is despite research that shows that immigration detention is particularly damaging for vulnerable non-citizens (such as people with existing mental or physical disabilities, asylum-seekers and victims of torture), and that immigration detention often causes new mental health disabilities.

There is a fundamental, systemic problem with using provincial correctional facilities designed for persons detained under the Criminal Code, to detain immigrants who are neither criminally-charged nor serving a sentence. It would appear that provincial correctional facilities have neither the infrastructure nor the staff expertise to handle immigration detainees in a way that accommodates their unique needs.

For example, despite their vulnerable status and unique needs, we are concerned that immigration detainees have extremely limited access to language interpretation services or appropriate supportive programming. We are also concerned that immigration detainees do not have access to adequate or tailored mental health treatment or support.

This situation calls out for reform. In the interim, the University of Toronto report makes several recommendations that have been endorsed by myriad stakeholders including the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, Canadian Civil Liberties Association, End Immigration Detention Network, Refugee Lawyers Association of Ontario, South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario, and the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario.

These recommendations include steps that should be taken by the provincial government, many of which relate to our concerns that the Code-related needs of immigration detainees are not being met.

The OHRC recommends that MCSCS implement the University of Toronto recommendations that fall within its jurisdiction:

  1. Negotiate with the federal government to ensure that:a. Funding received to house immigration detainees is sufficient to ensure adequate in-person, health care (including mental health care), legal counsel, community supports, and spiritual and family supports for immigration detaineesb. CBSA staff is regularly present at all provincial facilities that house immigration detainees.
  2. Ensure immigration detainees are held in the least restrictive setting consistent with management of a non-criminal population and protection of the public, staff members, and other prisoners, including in residential-treatment facilities if needed.
  3. Ensure consistent and meaningful access to adequate in-person, health care (including mental health care), legal counsel, community supports, and spiritual and family supports.
  4. Allow for regular, independent monitoring by the Canadian Red Cross Society of provincial jails that house immigration detainees, and commit to implementation of any recommendations received.
  5. Provide training to correctional staff on immigration detention, human rights, and diversity.
  6. Ensure that provincial legal aid programs are fully accessible to immigration detainees at all stages of the process, regardless of the length of detention, and that funding is sufficient to pay for independent mental health assessments.
  7. Publicly disclose any agreements or contracts negotiated with the federal government in relation to detention of immigration detainees in provincial jails

As always, the OHRC is committed to working with you to address human rights-related issues that fall within your mandate.

Consistent with our mandate to report on the state of human rights in Ontario, we will be making this letter public.

Sincerely,

Renu Mandhane, B.A., J.D., LL.M.
Chief Commissioner

cc: Hon. Madeleine Meilleur, Attorney General of Ontario

Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety

Marie Claude Landry, Chief Commissioner, Canadian Human Rights Commission

David Wanstall, International Committee of the Red Cross (Canada)

Rana Khan, UN High Commissioner for Refugees

Samer Muscati, Director, International Human Rights Program, University of Toronto Faculty of Law

OHRC Commissioners

 

(source: http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/news_centre/ohrc-calls-reforms-immigrant-detention-system)