Let the children go … and other concerns with Immigration Detention Framework

  • June 22, 2017

The CBA response to consultations on the Canadian Border Services Agency’s new National Immigration Detention Framework touches on four concerns – particularly the question of detaining children.

Whatever the status of the child, whether he or she is an unaccompanied minor, or a Canadian citizen with parents being held in detention, the overriding rule of thumb should always be to keep the best interests of the child in the forefront. And it is never in the best interests of a child to be detained, say the CBA National Immigration Section and the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Community Forum in their submission.

“Children who live in detention for even brief periods experience significant psychological harm that persists even after they are released,” the submission says. “Not surprisingly, they experience increased symptoms of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress and suicidal ideation, as well as developmental delays and behavioural issues.”

The harm doesn’t stop there – parents can also be negatively affected by detention, leaving them incapable of properly caring for their children.

The CBA was among more than 400 signatories to A Statement against the Immigration Detention of Children in October 2016. It followed on a report from the University of Toronto International Human Rights Program which highlighted that “life in immigration is woefully unsuited for children.”

The submission makes a number of recommendations for the treatment of children under the new framework.

Other concerns noted in the submission are:

  • The need for an effective, independent complaints and monitoring mechanism for the CBSA
  • The need to restrict the use of videoconferencing because of the way it depersonalizes the hearing environment. “A matter as fundamental as detention should, at a minimum, allow for the option of an in-person hearing,” the submission says. All parties should consent to the use of videoconferencing if it is to be used.
  • The need to explicitly include the protection of gender identity and gender expression rights in the Framework, “These protections should address concerns about institutional placement, use of segregation, searches, toiletry access to personal items, and access to health care for this population.”

Overall, the Sections congratulate the government on its efforts to implement a new immigration detention framework. “We agree with many of the recommendations in the Summary Report, and appreciate the opportunity to share our views on issues of particular concern to our members.”

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