Canadian Human Rights Commission urges Canada to respect the rights of migrants and refugees in detention

Monday, September 14, 2015

September 14, 2015 – Ottawa, Ontario – Canadian Human Rights Commission

The Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) is calling on Canada and other governments to improve access to justice for migrants and refugees.

According to a 2015 report by the University of Toronto’s International Human Rights Program, thousands of migrants are arbitrarily detained in Canada each year. Nearly one third are held in facilities intended for criminals, sometimes for years at a time, in violation of international human rights law.

In a video address to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva today, CHRC Chief Commissioner Marie-Claude Landry called on Canada to adopt new international guidelines to ensure access to justice for people deprived of their liberty, and to protect the most vulnerable: children, women and girls, persons with disabilities, migrants, asylum-seekers, refugees and stateless persons.

Chief Commissioner Landry urged Canada to ensure that detention is not used arbitrarily or routinely and that migrants, once detained, are given access to the courts to seek release. Below is an excerpt from her statement: 

“Each year, thousands of migrants are detained in Canada. While some migrants are detained due to past criminality, most are not. Migrants may be detained because they are deemed a flight risk, their identity cannot be confirmed, or they are otherwise deemed to be a danger to the public. Many are detained in facilities intended for a criminal population. 

“Migrant detention has a significant negative impact on mental health, particularly for individuals with mental disabilities and victims of torture.

“The CHRC acknowledges Canada’s right to detain people of unknown identity or who may be considered a risk. However, detention must be shown to be truly necessary rather than routine, and must be regularly reviewed in a meaningful way.

“The CHRC urges governments, and especially the Government of Canada, to adopt these principles and guidelines. The CHRC also recommends that the focus on the vulnerability of migrants, asylum seekers, refugees and stateless persons be maintained.” 
— Marie-Claude Landry, Ad. E., Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission