Overhaul immigration detention system: Editorial

Posted
August 21, 2017
Article Source
Toronto Star

From a Toronto Star editorial: If you want to understand what’s wrong with Canada's immigration detention system, consider the case of Ricardo Scotland.

The refugee claimant from Barbados was held for a total of 18 months at a maximum-security jail in Thorold, Ont., though he was charged with no crime. In fact, as Ontario Superior Court Justice Edward Morgan ruled this week, he was detained "for no real reason at all."

In ordering Scotland's immediate release, Morgan described the detainee's treatment by Canada's migrant detention system as Kafkaesque, reprimanding the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) for relying on an "endless circuit of mistakes, unproven accusations, and technicalities" to arrest the single father and keep him in indefinite custody.

That shouldn't happen in a democracy. Yet in Canada it is not uncommon for unwanted migrants, convicted of no crime, to languish in maximum-security prisons for years at a time.

Scotland's case and the court's scathing decision point yet again to flaws in the system that Ottawa has been shamefully slow to address.

First, Scotland should never have been put in prison. After all, he was detained for four alleged breaches of bail conditions (related to charges later stayed), all of which were found to be innocent mistakes. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has argued that detention in the immigration system should be a "last resort." That was clearly not the case here.

Second, once the breaches were determined to be "faux," as the judge put it, Scotland should have been released. At his last hearing before the Immigration and Refugee Board, even a government representative argued that he should be set free. But the adjudicator at the quasi-judicial hearing rejected the submission.

As Morgan pointed out, once the IRB has made up its mind, it's very hard to change it. "The detention review process becomes a closed circle of self-referential and circuitous logic from which there is no escape," Morgan said.

Read more: Overhaul immigration detention system: Editorial