Lengthy immigration detention in Canada under fire in court
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.
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.