CBA statement on immigration detention of children

  • June 20, 2018

The Canadian Bar Association supports the American Bar Association’s statement opposing the current situation in the United States where children are being separated from their parents and being held in detention facilities.

In 2016 the CBA was one of more than 400 signatories on a statement against the immigration detention of children, which said the practice of holding children in detention causes lasting psychological harm. The CBA’s own 2017 submission on the New National Immigration Detention Framework called on the Government to find viable alternatives to holding children in detention, with or without parents.

The CBA commends the Canadian Government’s direction to the Canada Border Services Agency in June 2017 to “as much as humanly possible keep children out of detention, and keep families together,” with the best interests of the child at the forefront. The CBA is committed to working with the Government to continue to improve our refugee determination system.

The CBA’s 2017 submission made six recommendations on children and minors in detention:

  • Clarify that the best interests of the child is a primary consideration in any decision on detention that affects a child, regardless of the child’s status.
  • In addition to assigning a designated representative to an unaccompanied or separated minor, consider providing legal representation.
  • Detained children should not be separated from family members while in immigration holding facilities. Where the detention of families cannot be avoided, family units should be made available.
  • In addition to schooling needs, adequate recreational activities should be made available to children, including options for participation in off-site programming.
  • Appropriate medical and mental health services should be available to minors
  • When children are placed in alternate care arrangements, regular contact with detained parents and family members should be facilitated.

The Canadian Bar Association urges all governments to respect their international obligations under the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.