Coroner’s Inquest: Answers needed to circumstances of death in CBSA detention

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Media release

For immediate release
30 September 2014

 

Coroner’s Inquest: Answers needed to circumstances of death in CBSA detention

The Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) today expressed its hopes for answers from the inquest this week in Vancouver into the death of Lucia Vega Jiménez in immigration detention.

Lucia Vega Jiménez died in late December 2013 while detained by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) in Vancouver: information was not made public about this death until more than a month after it occurred.

The CCR has been granted participant status at the inquest and will be highlighting the importance of giving detainees access to non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Unlike CBSA detention centres in Montreal and Toronto, NGOs are not allowed to provide services in the CBSA detention centre in Vancouver – a rule that CCR has for years been urging CBSA to change.

The CCR is represented at the inquest by Phil Rankin.

The CCR is aware of the acute distress suffered by many immigration detainees, whether they are just arriving to make a refugee claim in Canada, or facing deportation, like Ms Vega Jiménez. Reports by the Canadian Red Cross based on their monitoring of detention conditions, and recently cited in the media, have also raised concerns about the impacts of detention on vulnerable persons and the need for better access to mental health services.

The inquest will necessarily be limited in its scope and will not provide answers to some questions, such as the reason for the delay in disclosing the death. This highlights once again the urgent need for an independent oversight mechanism for the CBSA. Despite its wide powers of arrest and detention, the CBSA is not subject to any external review mechanism, and those alleging abuses can only complain to the CBSA itself. Most other law enforcement agencies in Canada are subject to an independent complaints mechanism. The lack of oversight increases the risk of abuse of power by the CBSA: this is a particular concern in the case of the many vulnerable and racialized non-citizens with whom the CBSA interacts.

For further information from the CCR regarding the need for an oversight mechanism for the CBSA see: http://ccrweb.ca/en/oversight-mechanism-cbsa.

Contact:

Colleen French, CCR Communication Coordinator, 514-277-7223, ext. 1, (514) 602-2098 (cell), cfrench@ccrweb.ca