Voices from Inside Detention: Anike*

*The detainee’s name has been changed to protect her identity.

From the IHRP report "We Have No Rights": Arbitrary Imprisonment and Cruel Treatment of Migrants with Mental Health Issues in Canada.

Anike came to Canada in 2007 from West Africa to attend University. According to her counsel, Anike has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, though she did not acknowledge her mental illness during her interview with the IHRP. Anike has been previously hospitalized for attempted suicide through prescription-drug overdose.

Though Anike has no criminal background, she has been held in immigration detention at Vanier Centre for Women in Milton, Ontario (Vanier) since April 2014 after being deemed a flight risk. She is currently in the process of claiming refugee status with the assistance of counsel. Counsel advise that the Immigration Division views Anike’s fear to return to her country of origin as evidence that she is unlikely to appear for removal, and therefore makes her a flight risk.  

After Anike’s student visa expired, her family in her country of origin cut her off financially, and she became homeless. Anike was living in and out of shelters when someone approached her to discuss her housing situation, discovered she had no immigration status, and alerted Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). This person may have been a community support worker or police officer, it was not clear from our interview with Anike (this ambiguity is unsurprising given the stress of the situation and her untreated mental health issues).

CBSA took her to the Toronto Immigration Holding Centre, where she stayed for one day before she was transferred to Vanier on account of her mental health issues. Anike finds it stressful to interact with women serving criminal sentences or charged with criminal offences. She also reported being bullied by other prisoners. She was held in a general population unit on the maximum-security wing before being moved to the more isolated Intensive Management, Assessment and Treatment unit.

Anike has not been taking the medication prescribed to her at Vanier because she does not acknowledge that she has any mental health issues. She mentioned that her counsel (whom she has met seven times) “keeps talking about medication, that [she] should take medication,” but she believes it is unnecessary. She preferred not to answer our questions about her mental health.

Her lawyers confirmed that her refusal to take medication is preventing Anike from being released, and that she will not be released until she is “stable.”