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Updated: July 21, 2022

Vancouver B.C. – B.C.’s Human Rights Commissioner Kasari Govender commends the provincial government for cancelling its agreement with Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA,) and ending the detention of migrants in provincial jails.

“Migrants will no longer be put in B.C. jails simply for administrative reasons like missing documentation, once this change takes effect next year. CBSA may still hold migrants in a detention centre, but this a significant first step towards affirming the human rights of detainees. I applaud B.C. for taking this important step and I hope that other provinces will follow suit,” said the Commissioner.

In March, the Commissioner urged B.C. to cancel its agreement with CBSA in a submission to the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General .

“According to CBSA data, 94 per cent of immigration detainees are held for administrative reasons and pose no risk to the public. Detaining innocent migrants in jails is cruel, unjust and violates human rights commitments,” said Commissioner Govender. “Now, it is up to the federal government to abolish all migrant detention and expand the use of community-based alternatives that support individuals.”

Almost nine thousand people across Canada, including 138 children, were forced into detention in the year prior to the pandemic. (Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International report.[1]) Migrants report being handcuffed, shackled, searched, subjected to solitary confinement, restricted to small spaces with rigid routines, and placed under constant surveillance with severely limited access to the outside world.

“There is strong evidence that racialized people and those with disabilities experience harsher treatment and are detained for longer periods of time,” said Govender. “Across Canada, migrants are detained for non-criminal purposes and for indefinite periods of time, which violates international human rights law and can result in devastating impacts on migrants’ health and well-being.”


Media contact

Catherine Pope, at media@bchumanrights.ca

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BC’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner exists to address the root causes of inequality, discrimination and injustice in B.C. by shifting laws, policies, practices and cultures. We do this work through education, research, advocacy, inquiry and monitoring. Learn more at: bchumanrights.ca

About the Commissioner

B.C.’s Human Rights Commissioner, Kasari Govender, started her five-year term on Sept. 3, 2019. Since then, our Office has been working swiftly to build a strong team, to listen deeply to the concerns of British Columbians, to deliver education materials on our rights and responsibilities, to issue policy guidance to protect marginalized communities and to lay a human rights-based foundation for our work. As an independent officer of the Legislature, the Commissioner is uniquely positioned to ensure human rights in B.C. are protected, respected and advanced on a systemic level throughout our society.

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[1] Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, “I Didn’t Feel Like a Human in There: Immigration Detention in Canada and Its Impact on Mental Health”, 2021, https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/amr20/4195/2021/en/