Voices from Inside Detention: Dajuan*

*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.

Dajuan came to Canada from the Caribbean in 1997, when he was 16 years old, and was diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 20. Dajuan was a permanent resident before the government revoked his status based on criminal convictions. After serving an eight month sentence at Central North Correctional Centre (CNCC), Dajuan was immediately placed on immigration hold on grounds of being a flight risk (not a danger to the public).  He was transferred from CNCC to Metro West Detention Centre, and subsequently to Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay, Ontario (CECC).

Dajuan was held in immigration detention for 28 months, from October 2012, to February 2015; his immigration hold lasted more than three times as long as his criminal sentence. 

Despite CBSA’s efforts to deport Dajuan, in November 2014 he received a positive risk determination in his Pre-Removal Risk Assessment (PRRA), meaning that he cannot be removed from Canada at this time. His PRRA application is currently being assessed for risk balancing, and he has now been released from detention.

The IHRP interviewed Dajuan while he was still imprisoned at CECC.

During our interview, Dajuan described the mental health care he was receiving at CECC. He was taking medication regularly, both bi-weekly and nightly. “I want to take [the medication],” confirmed Dajuan. “If you want to stay on a range, you have to take the medication.” He reported that he meets with the psychiatrist once a month, but may also have an appointment if he is “acting different or not taking the medication.” He acknowledged that there had been periods of time when he stopped taking his medication: “sometimes nothing good goes for you here … something like a year passes and you won’t care, you give up…” Nevertheless, he explained that taking his medication is “key.” “On the outside I always forget to take my medication, but for the past three years I’ve taken my medication and I’m on track. A lot of people have been here for eight years and I’ve learned a lot from them,” he told us.

Dajuan has an eight-year-old son who was born in Canada and lives in Toronto. His son, his son’s mother, and sometimes his own mother come to Lindsay to visit him. They take an “immigration bus” from Toronto, a trip that can take nearly two hours each way. The visits last 20 minutes.

When describing his detention reviews, Dajuan noted that they only take “two minutes.” “Imagine doing that for a year,” he continued, “[the] only thing [they] sometimes [ask me] is my name.” He received a positive first stage risk assessment in his PRRA. A risk balancing process is currently underway to determine whether he is a danger to the public. He cannot be removed from Canada during this prolonged process. As a result CBSA referred his case to the Toronto Bail Program (TBP) and the Immigration Division agreed to release him under TBP supervision.

Although Dajuan believes that having a mental illness made it more difficult for CBSA to secure his deportation, he also noted that his schizophrenia at first made it harder for him to convince TBP to supervise him. “In a way, if I was a ‘normal person’, they wouldn’t have to find the medication. It took almost three-four months for [TBP] to come see me because they had so much things to put in place.”

Dajuan also mentioned that the restrictions the government has placed on health care for non-citizens (through cuts to the IFHP) further prolonged his stay in detention.  The TBP would not accept him in January 2014, from his perspective, because they could not secure a source for his medication (there were other reasons as well, including his criminal record which meant that TBP required a direct referral from CBSA, not from Dajuan and/or counsel). “TBP saw me when I was only in detention for four months, but I would not have been able to get the meds. Now they want to bail me out but I can get my medication now. I think they have community groups … who are willing to help. There are so many people with mental illness in immigration so it’s hard to help everyone at the same time."

Although Dajuan was feeling positive about the possibility of release, he acknowledged that TBP might not come through. “After waiting for three years they tell me I have to wait six more months. [I’m] right at the door just pushing the door knob."