Voices from Inside Detention: Samuel*

*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

Samuel came to Canada from the Caribbean in 1987, when he was 11 years old. His counsel indicated that he has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder (including psychosis), as well as cognitive delay.

On August 20, 2013, soon after serving a two-week sentence for a non-violent offence at Maplehurst Correctional Complex in Milton, Ontario, Samuel was placed in immigration detention, and eventually transferred to Central East Correctional Centre (CECC) in Lindsay, Ontario. After being detained for nearly 18 months, he was released in January 2015.

When asked to compare his experience serving his criminal sentence to immigration detention, Samuel stated decisively that his immigration hold was worse. Samuel reported that the uncertainty of his immigration status was particularly stressful. “Immigration hold was a pain,” he told the IHRP. “I didn’t know if they were going to deport me… I’d been there for so long.” He also found that the staff at CECC were “rude” and that they “talk down to you.”

At CECC, Samuel reported seeing a doctor in person once per month, for about ten minutes per appointment. The doctor would notify Samuel about the medication that he prescribed. Samuel took medication in the morning and at night in order to “to keep [him] calm.” He noted that the pills had side effects: they gave him “a chill” and made him “put on lots of weight.” Although Samuel made requests “a few times” to meet with a psychiatrist, he stated that he never received a response.

Samuel recalled complaining to the guards that “I can’t stay here this long in this jail.” He also recalled complaining to the doctor that his life was “in danger” because he was around lots of people who would fight, and the doctor responded by saying that “there is nothing he could do.”

At his monthly detention review hearings, the Immigration Division Member (decision-maker) and Minister’s counsel “talk[ed] down to me, [they] don’t want me to get out and I used to get frustrated.” When asked how they would “talk down” to him, Samuel replied, “basically you’re a criminal and they got a control over your life.” He spoke with his legal aid lawyer over the phone or occasionally via video link, and he met with counsel in person once in April 2014.

When asked about going back to his country of origin, Samuel indicated that that country’s officials said his “life would be in danger” if he went back, because, as Samuel put it, “I got no family there and I got no ties.” In November 2014, Samuel’s Pre-Removal Risk Assessment (PRRA), an application indicating his fear at returning to his home country, was re-opened and he received a positive risk determination, meaning that he cannot be removed from Canada at this time. His PRRA application is currently being assessed for risk balancing.

Samuel has two kids who were born in Canada. They never visited him at CECC because it was “too far.”  

Eventually, Toronto Bail Program (TBP) agreed to facilitate Samuel’s release, while his mother, who lives in Canada, posted a $5000 bond. As part of his release conditions, Samuel must report to the TBP twice a week, where he also receives his medication. He is not sure how long he will have to continue to report to TBP, but he “hope[s] it’s not forever.”

Currently, Samuel resides at a crisis service centre in Toronto that specifically supports individuals with mental disabilities. When asked how immigration detention affected him, Samuel responded that it “makes [him] depressed,” and he feels that he now has to “walk on eggshells.”