Detention of children
Under Canada's immigration law, children are supposed to be detained only as a “last resort”.
But children are regularly detained in Canada.
They are detained on grounds of identity or flight risk, or they are a "guest" in detention accompanying a detained parent.
End the immigration detention of children: amend the law
The CCR is calling for the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to be amended to:
- End the detention of children
- Preserve children’s right to family unity by not detaining accompanying parents
- Make the best interests of the child a primary consideration in all detention decisions
Join the CCR's call to end the immigration detention of children
You can add your voice by supporting the five principles identified by the CCR as fundamental to ending the immigration detention of children.
- End the detention of children under immigration legislation. The detention of children for immigration purposes is never in their best interests. Community-based alternatives should always be found. Detention should never be used to house separated children or to “protect” them (for example, from risk of trafficking): in such situations, child-appropriate alternatives should be found, and, where necessary and appropriate, child protection agencies should be called upon.
- Preserve children’s right to family unity by not detaining accompanying parents and guardians (legal or de facto). Community-based alternatives to detention should be found for families, in order to avoid separating families or housing children in detention (in either case a violation of the child’s rights). This principle may not apply in exceptional circumstances, such as where a parent constitutes a danger to the public or to the child, and where the danger cannot be mitigated through alternatives.
- Make the best interests of the child a primary consideration in all detention decisions. Currently the law directs that the child’s best interests only be considered when the child is detained. They need to be considered whenever a child is affected by a decision to detain an adult, and they need to be a primary consideration. This includes situations involving the detention of a parent, or of the older sibling of a separated child, and any other situations when the detention of adults would directly affect a child.
- Amend the law. The current wording of “last resort” in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act is outdated and vague and has proven ineffective. Many children, including refugee children, have been detained as a “last resort” even though there are no compelling grounds to detain and alternatives exist. The law is also inadequate in that it does not direct that the best interests of the child be a primary consideration where an adult is detained. This means that children, including Canadian citizen children, are often de facto detainees, accompanying a detained parent or other family member. Meaningful and lasting change will depend on the law providing strong protection of children’s rights.
- Provide designated representatives to separated children immediately when they come into contact with immigration authorities and throughout their immigration process. Currently, the law provides for a representative to be designated only when children appear before the Immigration and Refugee Board. This leaves separated children without anyone to protect their interests during many critical parts of their immigration processing. The designated representatives must be properly qualified.
How to show your support
- Write to the Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale supporting the CCR's proposal
- Show your support for CCR's proposal on social media (see resources below)
- Distribute the infographic and comic strip to raise awareness
- Donate to the CCR to help end the detention of children in Canada
- Full text of CCR proposal to end the immigration detention of children
- Five principles of CCR proposal
- Detention and Best interests of the child (CCR 2009 report)
Social media resources