Lengthy im­mi­gra­tion de­ten­tion in Canada un­der fire in court

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - COLIN PERKEL

TORONTO — Canada’s im­mi­gra­tion regime al­lows for in­def­i­nite and ar­bi­trary de­ten­tion and is there­fore un­con­sti­tu­tional, Fed­eral Court heard Mon­day.

What’s needed is a ro­bust process and a le­gal limit on how long for­eign­ers can be held when speedy de­por­ta­tion is un­likely to hap­pen, court was told by lawyers for a Ja­maican man who spent five years in cus­tody.

“This is a case of the Cana­dian state de­priv­ing hu­man be­ings of their most fun­da­men­tal rights,” lawyer Jared Will said in his sub­mis­sions. “Lengthy in­def­i­nite de­ten­tion is con­trary to the prin­ci­ples of fun­da­men­tal jus­tice.”

At is­sue are pro­vi­sions in Canada’s im­mi­gra­tion law that al­low for­eign­ers fac­ing de­por­ta­tion to be de­tained — fre­quently un­der max­i­mum se­cu­rity con­di­tions — when the govern­ment con­sid­ers them a flight risk, a dan­ger to the pub­lic, or can­not con­firm their iden­tity.

The case be­ing heard was launched by Alvin Brown, a men­tally ill fa­ther of six who was de­ported to Ja­maica last Septem­ber. He had spent five years in de­ten­tion as a dan­ger to the pub­lic based on prior crim­i­nal con­vic­tions, mostly drug and weapons of­fences. Canada could not de­port him un­til Ja­maica is­sued a travel doc­u­ment.

The lawyers said the sit­u­a­tion can amount to cruel and un­usual pun­ish­ment that can cause tremen­dous psy­cho­log­i­cal dam­age.

Brown, who was sent back to Ja­maica as a 40-year-old af­ter more than three decades in Canada, called his ex­pe­ri­ence “hor­ri­ble.”

“I would have rather been dead than de­tained, not know­ing when I would be re­leased,” Brown said in a state­ment. “It was trau­ma­tiz­ing.”

The group End Im­mi­gra­tion De­ten­tion Net­work, which has stand­ing in the un­prece­dented case, ral­lied out­side the court on Mon­day. The group wants a 90-day limit on de­ten­tions.

On hand for the rally was Kimora Ade­tunji, 33, whose hus­band has been in im­mi­gra­tion de­ten­tion for the past eight months. Hold­ing their two-year-old son, Ade­tunji said the case has been dev­as­tat­ing for her fam­ily.

COLIN PERKEL, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Kimora Ade­tunji, 33, is seen with her son King, 2, out­side Fed­eral Court in Toronto on Mon­day. Her hus­band has been de­tained for eight months.

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