Five Canadian provinces – Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Alberta and Saskatchewan – are reportedly saying they will keep detaining migrants in their provincial jails under deals with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).
Under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), migrants can be and are kept in these provincial jails across Canada even when they are not accused of a crime.
In mid-September, Nova Scotia announced it would be ending the practice which has come under fire from advocates for migrant rights and not renew its deal with the CBSA.
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That move came on the heels of a similar decision by British Columbia, making Nova Scotia only the second province in Canada to take steps to stop the practice.
Advocates who have been calling on Ottawa to end housing of IRPA detainees in provincial jails across Canada praised the East Coast province’s decision.
“Nova Scotia has confirmed it is terminating its immigration detention contract with CBSA,” tweeted Samer Muscati, the associate disability rights director at Human Rights Watch.
“With two provinces canceling their contracts within weeks, the federal government should show leadership by canceling the rest.”
So far, though, at least five provinces are saying they will continue their agreements with CBSA, reports CBC News.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have teamed up to fight the detention of newcomers in provincial jails across Canada in a campaign dubbed #WelcometoCanada.
On the campaign website, the human rights activists claim that between April 2017 and March 2020, more than a fifth of immigration detainees, about 5,400, were held in 78 provincial jails across Canada, many of which are maximum security facilities.
These people were held in small spaces and were under constant surveillance and, in provincial jails, many are confined in dangerous environments where they might be subjected to violence, the campaign claims.
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“It’s extremely shocking, it’s even outrageous that we can treat human beings this way in a country like Canada,” France-Isabelle Langlois, executive director of Amnesty International Canada’s francophone branch, reportedly told the CBC.
According to the national broadcaster, Ottawa pays the provinces to detain these migrants in provincial jails with Ontario reportedly receiving $356.69 per day for each migrant and Quebec $301.18 per day for women and $270.28 for men.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International claim that, since 2016, Canada has held more than 300 immigration detainees for longer than a year.
“Canada prides itself on welcoming refugees and newcomers with open arms, even though it’s one of the few countries in the global north where people seeking safety risk being locked up indefinitely,” said Muscati.
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“This leaves many without the certainty – or even hope – of knowing when they will be free again, which can have a devastating impact on their mental health.”
Earlier this year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged another $26.9 million to migration and protection-related projects in the Americas and professed Canada’s willingness to accept an additional 4,000 refugees from those two continents by 2028 at the 9th Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles.
“Canada values its deep and longstanding partnerships with countries across the Americas, which are crucial to improving peoples’ lives by driving economic growth that benefits everyone, advancing gender equality, and fighting climate change,” said Trudeau.
“At this productive Summit of the Americas, we recommitted to continue working together to build a better future for people across the hemisphere.”