Canadian Council for Refugees
6 November 2017
For immediate release
The CCR welcomes government directives to reduce detention of children, but more needs to be done
The CCR today welcomed the Ministerial Direction and the Canada Border Services Agency “National Directive for the Detention or Housing of Minors”. These new instructions are a concrete step towards ending the detention of children on immigration grounds in Canada.
The CCR is particularly pleased that the directives acknowledge the best interests of the child as a primary consideration, when decisions are being made. The directives also clearly and repeatedly emphasize that non-detention is the rule and recognize the need to preserve family unity.
How the directive is put into practice will be crucial: experience shows that policies are often implemented inconsistently. This is the case with the implementation of the legislative provision making detention of children a matter of “last resort”, in force since 2002. Despite this provision, children have been routinely detained, or housed in detention with their parents, sometimes for months and even years. The new directives similarly contain wording that may lead to inconsistent application, notably in stating that detention is to be avoided “to the greatest extent possible”, or tying avoidance of detention to the availability of Alternatives to Detention.
The CCR believes that it is urgent that CBSA be overseen by an independent accountability mechanism that could receive complaints about non-compliance with the directives on detention of minors. The CCR has recommended a model for such a mechanism.
The CCR has long advocated for an end to the detention of children. While we welcome the new directives, we continue to call for a change to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. We believe that meaningful and lasting change will depend on the law providing strong protection of children’s rights.
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Colleen French, Communication Coordinator, 514-277-7223, ext.1, 514-602-2098 (cell), firstname.lastname@example.org