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B.C. ending immigration detention arrangement with CBSA, citing human rights

July 22, 2022

By CBC News |

British Columbia is ending an arrangement with Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to hold immigration detainees in provincial correctional centres, saying it doesn’t align with its stance on human rights.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said in a statement Thursday the province conducted a review that analyzed its contract with the agency, including public safety, and consulted with advocacy groups.

“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,” he said.

The report said the number of immigration detainees in provincial custody is declining but provincial jails are used to holding “high risk detainees.” It also noted that while CBSA compensates B.C. Corrections to hold detainees, it does not cover the total cost.

“This is a trend that is likely to continue given the overall reduction in the number of detainees in provincial custody. If the arrangement ended, these are resources that could be used to support B.C. Corrections’ clients, including individuals in custody with complex needs and behaviours,” it said.

The move comes following calls from human rights advocates in B.C. urging the province to end its contract with the CBSA and stop incarcerating immigrants and refugees in provincial jails.

A coalition of human rights organizations and advocates — including the B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA), Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International — launched a campaign in October urging Canadians to call on the provincial government to stop allowing the CBSA to use provincial jails to lock up people seeking asylum.

The groups released a report in June 2021 saying immigrants with no criminal charges against them are detained in holding centres, federal prisons or provincial jails for “indeterminate amounts of time.”

Human rights group says move is major milestone

“Canada is among the few countries in the global north with no legal limit on the duration of immigration detention, meaning people can be detained for months or years with no end in sight,” the groups said in a joint statement following the announcement.

“British Columbia’s decision is a major milestone on the path to ending immigration detention in provincial jails in Canada.”

Ketty Nivyabandi, secretary-general of Amnesty International Canada, said in a statement that she commends B.C. on being the first province to make the decision, calling it a “momentous step.”

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