The CCR calls on Canada to end the immigration detention of children

Canadian Council for Refugees
Media release

For immediate release
26 August 2019

The CCR calls on Canada to end the immigration detention of children

The Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) today deplored the continuing presence in Canada of children in immigration detention or separated from a parent because of immigration detention.

“We are discouraged that, despite the Canadian government’s commitment to reducing the detention of children, we are still regularly seeing children in detention centres, particularly in Montreal,” said Claire Roque, President. “The statistics reinforce the need for Canada to end the immigration detention of children.”

Recently released government statistics show that 118 children were detained or housed in a detention centre in 2018-19. While this is a decrease from previous years, it represents a significant number of children suffering the lasting effects of being detained (studies show that even short-term detention is traumatizing). Also of serious concern is that the average length of detention has increased – to 18.6 days.

The overwhelming majority (91%) of children housed or detained in the past year were in Montreal. This heavy regional disparity highlights the unnecessariness of the detention: if other regions can put an end to the detention of children, why not in Montreal?

Children are described as “housed” when they are not legally detained, but accompany a detained parent. This includes Canadian citizen children (9 last year). From the perspective of the child, being housed is no different - and no less harmful - than being detained.

Most children in detention in Montreal are there because border officials are not “satisfied” that their parent’s identity has been established – a decision that is not reviewable by any independent tribunal. Montreal has long detained many more people on identity grounds than other regions, highlighting the arbitrary nature of decision-making. Many refugees are unable to travel with identity documents and need time after arrival to have ID sent to them.

The CCR is also concerned about the increasingly common practice of family separation as a result of immigration detention, a problem that is not captured in the statistics. This occurs when one parent is detained, while the other parent and children are not detained. For refugee families to be separated in this way on arrival in Canada, sometimes not even knowing how to contact each other, is extraordinarily traumatic.

In November 2017, the CCR welcomed the Ministerial Direction and the Canada Border Services Agency “National Directive for the Detention or Housing of Minors” as a step in the right direction. Nevertheless, as we said then, and as the recent statistics show, a change is needed to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act in order to end the detention of children.

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Milen Minchev, Communication Coordinator, 514-277-7223, ext.1, 514-602-2098 (cell),