Amnesty International applauds BC's decision to end immigration detention in provincial jails

Province to terminate immigration detention agreement with Canada border services

Amnesty International applauds BC's decision to end immigration detention in provincial jails

Amnesty International (AI) has applauded British Columbia’s recent decision to end immigration detention in provincial jails.

On July 21, BC’s Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth announced that the province would terminate its agreement with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to house immigration detainees in provincial jails.

“We commend British Columbia on being the first province to stop locking up refugee claimants and migrants in its jails solely on immigration grounds,” AI Canada secretary general Ketty Nivyabandi said. “This is a true human rights victory, one which upholds the dignity and rights of people who come to Canada in search of safety or a better life.”

The announcement came after the province concluded a review of its immigration detention agreement. During the review process, the province examined all aspects of the agreement, including its effect on public safety and if it aligns with the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and expectations set by Canadian courts.

The review found that certain aspects of the agreement is inconsistent with the provincial government’s commitment to upholding human-rights standards and pursuing social justice and equity for everyone.

“In light of these findings, the province is ending its arrangement with the CBSA,” Farnworth said. “BC Corrections will provide the CBSA with 12 months’ written notice as required under the current arrangement.”

According to AI, the CBSA has incarcerated hundreds of individuals in BC jails on immigration grounds over the past five years. In a June 2021 report, AI, together with Human Rights Watch (HRW), found that Canada is among the few countries in the global north with no legal limit on the length of time individuals can spend in immigration detention.

“We are thrilled that BC has taken this historic step to eliminate some of the worst abuses in immigration detention,” said HRW associate disability rights director Samer Muscati. “We urge other provinces and the federal government to follow suit by ending this harmful practice across the country, and to get on the path to abolishing immigration detention.”

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