Detention

Resolution number: 
35
June 1994
Whereas: 
  1. The CCR has produced a document entitled Refugee Detention in Canada, dated May 24, 1994, describing the current state of detention practices in Canada;
  2. The CCR and its member organizations have a collective experience of serious abuses and arbitrariness in arrest and detention practices since the adoption of law C-86;
  3. The practice of administrative detention under the Immigration Act violates article 9 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and several international human rights treaties that Canada has signed;
  4. The detention of people for removal in jails with common criminals or people being held for trial violates Canada's international obligations;
  5. There is an urgent need to reform the current rules and practices concerning grounds and powers of detention, including the necessity of legislative amendment, to prevent abuse of individuals' rights. Alternatives should be sought so that detention is used only when consistent with Charter of Rights and Freedom;
  6. Immigration officials at Canadian airports and entry points to Canada have greatly declined in civility and humanity in the treatment of visitors and foreign nationals seeking to come into this country since the adoption of Bill C-86;
  7. An exaggerated level of suspicion and scepticism is being shown to visitors to this country and this is harming the international image of this country;
  8. Minimal international standards for arrest and detention as well as conditions of detention have been adopted by the United Nations;
Therefore be it resolved: 

That the CCR:

  1. Endorse the May 1994 report on detention as its official paper on detention;
  2. Condemn the systematic violation of article 9 of the Canadian Charter and our international obligations;
  3. Urge the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to establish clear rules consistent with the Charter to delineate grounds for detention;
  4. Urgently demand the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to establish a mechanism for sanctions and accountability for immigration officials who abuse the rights of non-citizens and to study the possibility of an independent ombudsman for complaints about immigration practices;
  5. Demand that a code of ethics be established for immigration officials which stresses the need for normal courtesy and respect for physical conditions for visitors, as well as emphasizing a non-discriminatory attitude towards those coming to this country;
  6. Contact provincial tourism ministers to make them aware of the treatment that visitors to this country are subjected to at the current time;
  7. Invite the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the United Nations Human Rights Commission to visit Canada on a fact-finding visit to investigate the conformity of Canadian practices with international standards of behaviour;
  8. Advocate to the Minister that, while awaiting legislative amendments:
    1. Interpreters must be more quickly available at points of entry. No one should be detained simply because an interpreter cannot be found in time;
    2. A citizens advocates mechanism should be established in order to guard against abuse by self-contained administrative tribunals;
    3. The Department should facilitate access to review sessions to advocates willing to accompany detainees;
    4. A mechanism should be established for publishing and making available to counsel noteworthy decisions rendered by adjudicators;
    5. Maximum periods of detention should be established (no more than 4 months), except in cases where there is serious reason to believe the person poses a security risk or risk to the public. At the very least, the 4 month mark should trigger a special review with counsel, if necessary, funded by the federal government to actively seek solutions other than detention. A community advocate should also be present, if desired by the detainee;
    6. Detainees awaiting removal should be released, if the removal cannot be effected in the immediate future, as long as the person is not a security risk;
    7. Regulations establishing standards for detention centre conditions, rights and treatment of detainees and conditions for transfers to jail should be adopted. These regulations should be drawn up in consultation with the NGO sector;
    8. Detainees exhibiting signs of psychological stress should be given access to appropriate medical personnel immediately. Known or suspected survivors of torture should be referred to specialists. Reports of medical personnel should be taken into consideration in all decisions concerning the person's continued detention;
    9. Suicide attempts must be treated with the seriousness such an act merits. Relevant legislation should be reviewed and medical experts consulted to ensure that appropriate procedures are established and followed;
    10. Adequate medical care should be made available to all detainees in a timely manner. Special attention should be given to the medical needs of pregnant women;
    11. NGO's should be invited to participate in the training of personnel at detention centres, so as to increase sensitivity to the rights and needs of detainees;
    12. An independent review mechanism should be set up to oversee conditions of detention;
    13. In cases of detention in jails, detainees who have not been accused of a criminal offence should be separated from the general prison community. Special efforts should be made to expedite the case and to ensure that the detainee has access to counselling and community advocates;
    14. Minimum standards for outdoor exercise facilities should be established. There should be more than a small concrete courtyard;
    15. Airport detention facilities should be improved. Comfortable chairs should be provided. The specific needs of children should also be considered with special reference to the UN Convention on the Rights of Child. Food and drink should be made easily available;
    16. All detainees should be provided with an information sheet that clearly outlines their rights and obligations. The information sheet should be translated into as many languages as possible;
    17. All detainees should be provided with a list of organizations that might provide assistance;
    18. There should be opportunity for NGO representatives to meet with regional immigration officials at regular intervals;
    19. Staff cuts should not be made at the expense of the client. Staff needs should be regularly evaluated and reassignments immediately made if necessary;
    20. In seeking to increase the capacity of NGOs to anticipate and respond to the needs of incoming refugee claimants, the department should keep records of gender, age, and country of origin. These statistics would also permit the department to more effectively anticipate changes that might be required at detention facilities;
    21. Access to chaplaincy on a faith-appropriate basis should be provided.
Working Group: 
Inland Protection