Voices from Inside Detention: Clement*

*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.

Clement, now 31 years old, came to Canada from the Caribbean when he was eight years old. He was a permanent resident before the government revoked his immigration status for having committed a crime.

Clement was taken into custody following a meeting with immigration officials. He spent one month at Maplehurst Correctional Complex, and seven months at Central East Correctional Centre (CECC), which was longer than his criminal sentence: “This is the most time I’ve ever done,” he confirmed. In speaking about how he ended up in immigration detention, Clement noted, “I’m just kind of lost.”

The IHRP met with Clement while he was detained at CECC, and he has since been released (in February 2015). He is currently staying at a shelter in Hamilton.

Clement was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2006, and suffered a stroke in 2011. As a result of his stroke, he walks with a limp and also “suffer[s] from neurological damage;” “my speech is a little slow,” he told us. Clement confirmed that he had met with a psychiatrist at CECC for “around 15 minutes,” although he felt that the psychiatrist was just “going through the motions…I don’t think he took seriously anything that I was saying,” he told us. Due to his stroke, Clement has lost some motor function on the left side of his body: “I wish I had some therapy…I’m still trying to get my hand, left leg, and ankle back.” When asked whether he would want to have somebody to talk to, he replied: “Someone who would actually take me seriously? Sure, yes.”

Clement confirmed that he takes medication every night, but noted that it does not help: “Not while I’m in here. … Nothing really is helping right now.” The IHRP asked Clement whether he felt anxious: “Every day,” he replied. “I’m here, I’m dressed in orange … and I don’t know when it’s going to end. … Right now I’m trying to refrain from sinking back into that black hole.” When asked whether there are any consequences of refusing the medication, he replied, “It’s a must-take.”

Clement has two kids who were born and raised in Canada. They have never visited him in jail because he “[doesn’t] want them to come to a place like this.” “Everybody I know lives [in Canada],” he told us. When asked about any ties to his country of origin, he said, “I don’t know much about [it] … from what I hear most people don’t make it a month down there.”

Immediately prior to meeting us, Clement had attended a detention review hearing. The IHRP saw him enter the room where detention reviews take place, and only had to wait approximately seven minutes before the review was over and Clement joined us for the interview. Evidently, the detention review was very brief, which Clement indicated was not unusual. Despite their brevity, however, Clement reported that detention reviews are particularly stressful. He described sitting passively in his orange jumpsuit, on camera, and watching the hearing unfold on a TV screen; “they don’t know that inside I’m going absolutely crazy wondering if I’m going to get out or what’s going on,” he told us.

Clement’s counsel informed us that his detention was prolonged because he could not get access to psychiatric medication. The TBP was only willing to supervise Clement if he was taking medication regularly. However, despite repeated requests over the span of nearly seven months, the psychiatrist at CECC refused to see Clement, for reasons unknown to his counsel. According to his counsel, “[Clement’s] [case is] a great encapsulation of how difficult it is for counsel to pursue and arrange for a psychiatric evaluation. Unless we pay for our own [psychiatrist] to drive there – [which] costs thousands of dollars, if anyone is even willing [to do so] – [we have to] beg and plead the CBSA to arrange for one. It was incredibly difficult for [Clement].”

Eventually, Clement’s counsel was able to send the jail staff a list of medications that he had been on prior to his detention, in the hopes that the medical staff would provide these for him. Finally, the jail psychiatrist met with Clement, and he was given the necessary medication. Clement’s counsel reported that no one at the jail gave any justification for why they had refused to see Clement for so long.