Voices from Inside Detention: Antonin*

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

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

Antonin arrived in Canada from the Eastern Europe in 1985 after being sponsored by his grandmother. Having renounced his citizenship, and after serving a criminal sentence and losing his permanent resident status in Canada, Antonin was effectively stateless. 

Despite the fact that he was no longer a citizen of his country of origin, Canada sought to deport Antonin there and transferred him directly into immigration detention at Central East Correctional Centre (CECC) after completion of his criminal sentence in September 2013. The IHRP interviewed Antonin at Central North Correctional Centre in Penetanguishene, Ontario, where he had been transferred from CECC two weeks prior to our meeting.

In response to a particularly discouraging detention review hearing while at CECC, Antonin wrote a letter stating that he would commit suicide in 30 days if the conditions of his detention did not improve. According to Antonin, this landed him in solitary confinement: “They stripped me naked … and put me in the ice box.” He was forced to wear a “baby doll”, which he described as a stiff and sleeveless “little skirt made up of fireproof material.” “I was freezing,” Antonin recalled.

After the guards allegedly refused to get him additional clothes or allow him to call a lawyer, Antonin smashed his head on a sharp corner which resulted in profuse bleeding and caused him to lose consciousness. When he came to, he found himself in the “rubber room,” a room within CECC meant to prevent self-injury and where his actions were logged by staff every ten minutes. 

Despite his attempts at self-harm, access to mental health treatment was not forthcoming: “You’d think if someone was … smashing his head they’d make an effort to [have you] see a shrink…but [they] just had a psychologist coming in the morning and asking if I’m ready to leave the room now…I’m like ‘no’ [and] that’s it.” Antonin opined that the lack of mental health care related to his immigration status: “They are in the business of trying to deport people.”

After one week, at his request, Antonin was transferred to Central North Correctional Centre which is much closer to his two children and community supports. The IHRP met him in the maximum security unit there, where he was co-mingled with the criminal population.