On January 28, 2022, Bryan Arthur Stone, a 56-year-old father, died by suicide at the Laval Quebec immigration holding center while in the custody of the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). A year later, CBSA has refused to release details about the case, citing privacy. But information has now come to light after media obtained the Quebec coroner’s investigation, which stated that “this death could have been avoidable.”
Bryan was an American citizen with an established life in Quebec and had been in immigration detention for 53 days at the time of his death. According to the coroner’s report, he had been “stressed and sad” and warned he would kill himself if he were deported and separated from his son. He had attempted suicide four days earlier, and in response, CBSA placed him in solitary confinement.
Since 2000, at least 17 people have died in immigration detention, most in provincial jails.
Just last month, on Christmas Day, a woman reportedly died by suicide in CBSA custody at the Surrey, British Columbia immigration holding center. The Agency has not released any details about her identity, the circumstances of her death, or why she was in immigration detention.
In Ontario, a coroner’s inquest started this month into the 2015 death of Abdurahman Hassan, who was incarcerated in a maximum-security provincial jail for three years, had mental health conditions, and whose family had fled Somalia, seeking asylum in Toronto. The inquest has revealed graphic details about Abdulrahman’s final days after he lost consciousness in his solitary confinement cell.
CBSA has a history of cloaking fatalities of immigration detainees in secrecy and refusing to release information about those who die in custody. In the process, people who spent their final years, months, days, and hours in CBSA custody are dehumanized even after their death.
Despite these tragic deaths, Canada continues to pride itself on welcoming newcomers. But as Alberta’s public safety minister Mike Ellis said last week while calling on other provinces to stop immigration detention in provincial jails, “People who come to Canada for a fresh start and a new life deserve a better welcome than a jail cell while paperwork is sorted out.”
Canada should take concrete steps to abolish immigration detention. Nothing makes this imperative more urgent than this continued and avoidable loss of life.