Following the success of four provinces canceling their immigration detention contracts with the Canada Border Services Agency, human rights organizations and advocates across Canada are now turning their attention to the federal government, calling on it to stop using provincial jails for immigration detention.
On November 14, advocates will launch the 12-Days-of-Action Campaign, urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to cancel the federal government’s remaining immigration detention contracts with provincial governments. The campaign will kick off with a press conference on Parliament Hill, where Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International will be joined by two former Liberal cabinet ministers, Allan Rock and Lloyd Axworthy, and two people with lived experience in immigration detention, Sara Maria Lopez Gomez and Abdelrahman Elmady.
Since the start of the #WelcomeToCanada campaign in October 2021, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Alberta, and Manitoba have all canceled their respective immigration detention contracts. Once these decisions take effect, people in these provinces will no longer be incarcerated in provincial jails based solely on immigration grounds. The use of provincial jails for immigration detention is inherently punitive and inconsistent with international human rights standards, and it has devastating effects on people’s mental health. In a 2021 report, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International documented that people from communities of color, and in particular Black men, are confined in more restrictive conditions and for more prolonged periods of time in immigration detention. Persons with disabilities also experience discrimination while in immigration detention.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are working in tandem with a coalition of Canadian social justice, academic, and grassroots organizations, as well as individuals with lived experience in immigration detention, to amplify pressure on the federal government. Over the 12 days, several community-based organizations, including Matthew House, Kinbrace, and the Halifax Refugee Clinic, will host events across the country to highlight the compassionate care and support services available to migrants and refugee claimants as alternatives to immigration detention. The campaign will also include statements, open letters, and other actions by organizations that provide services to, and protect the rights of, migrants and refugee claimants.
With four provinces now having pulled out of their respective immigration detention contracts, it’s time for the prime minister to listen and demonstrate the leadership needed to end this devastating practice once and for all.