Security certificate detention conditions

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Letter to Minister of Public Safety

30 January 2007

Hon. Stockwell Day
Minister of Public Safety
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON, K1A 0A6

Dear Minister,

            I am writing on behalf of the Canadian Council for Refugees to ask for your urgent attention to the conditions of detention experienced by the three individuals held on security certificates at the Kingston Immigration Holding Centre.

            Based on our mandate to promote the rights of refugees and immigrants to Canada, the Canadian Council for Refugees has longstanding concerns with the security certificate process which we believe to be fundamentally unfair, notably in its use of secret evidence.  The fact that the process involves potential deportation to a danger of torture heightens the concern over this flawed process.  Furthermore, the rules relating to the detention of those subject to a security certificate, including mandatory detention in the case of those who are not permanent residents, also lead to violations of basic rights.  It is a grave concern that Mohammad Mahjoub,
Mahmoud Jaballah, and Hassan Almrei have each been detained for more than five years, despite being charged with no crime.  We continue to urge your government to eliminate or at least reform the security certificate process in order to respect the principles of fundamental justice. 

            In the meantime, we ask that you without delay substantially improve the conditions of detention of the persons in the Kingston Immigration Holding Centre.  Nothing in the current law requires that immigration detainees be subjected to any particular detention regime: on the contrary, as people neither charged nor convicted of any crime, immigration detainees should not be subject to any constraints more than are necessary to maintain them in detention.  For persons detained for exceptionally long periods, as is the case with the security certificate detainees, the onus lies with the government to alleviate as far as possible the hardship of detention through improvements to the conditions of detention.

            In this context we are shocked at the reports of the conditions in which the detainees are held in the Kingston Immigration Holding Centre, most particularly with respect to the health and medical needs of the detainees, which have been gravely neglected.  We note that many of the demands of the detainees could be met without cost or inconvenience to the government (for example, ceasing head counts in an institution with only three detainees, allowing detainees to wear their own clothing, allowing detainees to make phone calls using cheap calling cards).  While these matters are trivial from the government’s point of view, they have a tremendous impact on the detainees, as is shown by the fact that they have undertaken a hunger strike to back their demands.  We also underline that we expect the Canadian government to respect freedom of speech and the role of media in a democratic society by allowing the detainees full and unfettered access to the media.

            We therefore join the detainees and numerous other organizations in asking you to respond immediately and positively to the demands of the detainees, including through the appointment of a neutral party to provide ongoing mediation between the detainees and those running the holding centre.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Elizabeth McWeeny
President

 

cc.   Hon. Diane Finley, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration
Alain Jolicoeur, President, Canada Border Services Agency

Jan 2007