NDP calls for end to most immigration detention cases

CBC News

Brigitte Bureau · CBC News · Posted: Feb 01, 2023

The federal NDP is calling for an end to immigration detention — except for people who pose a danger to the public — after Radio-Canada/CBC reporting revealed that thousands of foreign nationals are detained each year with no release date.

"To put someone in jail when they're not a threat to public safety and throw away the key, without letting them know when they will actually be free, is so wrong, so inhumane," said Jenny Kwan, the party's immigration critic. 

"People's lives are destroyed in that way and they have zero hope. Many of them may have fled persecution to get to safety. Little do they know that when they get to Canada, they could be put in jail."

Earlier this week, Radio-Canada/CBC told the story of Abdirahman Warssama, who fled to Canada from Somalia only to be locked up for five years and seven months in maximum security jails in Ontario.

While immigration detainees are not charged with a crime, they can spend months or even years behind bars. In most cases, they're detained because the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) believes they won't show up for immigration proceedings like removal.

According to Kwan, the fact the federal government emptied its immigration holding centres during the COVID-19 pandemic to avoid outbreaks shows the current policy isn't necessary.

"Get rid of immigration detention," she said. "People without serious criminality and public safety issues should not be put in jail."

Bloc tabling motion

For its part, the Bloc Québécois plans on tabling a motion before the standing committee on citizenship and immigration to better understand immigration detention and identify ways to avoid the practice.

"We really want to shed some light on this and ensure that it doesn't happen again," said Bloc Québécois MP Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe, vice-chair of the immigration committee.

"It's horrible. It's really a shame, I think, for a G7 country that calls itself welcoming to the poorest people around the world and to people who are oppressed in their own country," he added, calling Radio-Canada/CBC's report "shocking".

The office of Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, who is responsible for CBSA, has previously indicated to Radio-Canada/CBC that immigration detention is always a measure of last resort and that the government continues to seek alternatives.