Human rights organizations and advocates across the Canadian province of British Columbia (BC) are launching a 14-Days-of-Action campaign to urge the provincial government to cancel its immigration detention contract with the Canada Border Services Agency. The campaign kicks off on May 4 and will culminate in a precedent-setting Vancouver City Council vote on May 18.
The push amplifies the national #WelcomeToCanada campaign launched by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International in October 2021, which calls on Canada to stop incarcerating immigration detainees in provincial jails. This practice is inherently punitive and inconsistent with international human rights standards, and it has devastating effects on people’s mental health.
In January 2022, BC’s government confirmed it will review its immigration detention contract with the federal government. Currently, the contract allows for federally held immigration detainees to be incarcerated in provincial jails. Conditions in provincial jails could potentially breach federal-provincial contracts across the country. BC’s review process is scheduled to conclude in June 2022.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have joined forces with a coalition of Canadian social justice, academic and grassroots organizations for the campaign, as well as individuals with lived experiences in immigration detention, and hundreds of lawyers, academic scholars, healthcare providers, and religious leaders across Canada. Multiple groups have submitted statements for the BC government’s review.
During the 14 Days of Action, the coalition will seek to educate the public and pressure the provincial government to end its involvement in immigration detention. The campaign will include public release of the submissions made to the province’s review and will feature a teach-in that will focus on the lived experiences of people in immigration detention. On May 18, Vancouver City Council will vote on a historic motion calling on the province to stop incarcerating immigration detainees in provincial jails. No other city in Canada has taken this step.
Since the launch of the #WelcomeToCanada campaign, pressure has been mounting on Canadian authorities. People across Canada have sent about 20,000 emails to the premiers of BC, Quebec, and Nova Scotia, urging them to stop their involvement in the human rights violations taking place against immigration detainees in their jails. It’s time for Canada’s leaders to start listening.