Incarcerating migrants is inhumane: Goar

March 22, 2016
Article Source
Toronto Star

From a Toronto Star column by Carol Goar: Another layer of oversight won't fix what's wrong with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).

The federal bureaucracy, once known as Canada Customs, has become a quasi-police organization. It locks up thousands of immigrants and asylum seekers every year. It holds them in maximum security prisons for months, sometimes years, although they have committed no crime. It keeps them behind bars until it can confirm their identities and deport them.

Two detainees died in Ontario prisons this month. The first was found unconscious and not breathing in his cell in the Toronto East Detention Centre. The second was found six days later in his cell at the Maplehurst Correctional Facility in Milton with no vital signs. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale initially reacted with concern. Then he promised "appropriate review mechanisms."

These are superficial solutions to a problem that goes to the heart of Canada's treatment of migrants. Why is the government incarcerating foreign nationals who pose no threat to public safety? Why is Ottawa using maximum security prisons as holding tanks for rejected refugee claimants? Why is the CBSA failing to safeguard the health, well-being and safety of detainees as the law requires?

Goodale did not create this problem. He inherited it from Stephen Harper's government, which turned preventative detention from a last resort into a routine procedure for handling unwanted migrants.

But he can correct it. The public safety minister can rein in his officials, not just create a watchdog to monitor them. He can set clear and stringent limits on the use of preventive detention. He can make it clear the practice should be used only in the rarest of circumstances.

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