Immigration Detention in Canada

Today at Central East Correctional Centre 50 immigration detainees are hunger striking to protest worsening living conditions, abuses, and indefinite detention. This comes one year after the death of Abdurahman Ibrahim Hassan who was in the custody of Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) at the Peterborough Regional Health Centre (PRHC). Hassan had spent 4 years waiting to be deported, suffering from mental health issues and diabetes before his death at 39 years old [1]. The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) has kept secret the details, only releasing Hassan’s age, and that he became ‘agitated’ and was ‘restrained’ resulting in his death. CBSA has refused to release any more information. In March, another detainee died while in the custody of the CBSA, again they have refused to release any information [2]. A representative for End Immigration Detention Network described the prison conditions for the detainees, saying “Immigration detainees are often on long lockdowns during the summer months, sometimes kept in their small shared cells for days in a row, unable to speak with their families, or get legal support” [3]. The current and past governments have failed to take action to correct the violence faced by the migrants at the hand of officials. These events are the latest in Canada’s long record of jailing migrants and abusing immigration detainees.

Migrants in detention have described their living conditions as “cruel and unusual” (Toby Clarke, who has been in detention since 2014), detainees are often abused, tortured, and even killed at the hands of the CBSA. These conditions result in a large portion of the migrants held in jails facing mental illness, again the CBSA has refuses to comment on this. Jailed migrants are also declined visiting with family, contacting family, or getting legal support; isolating these people from the outside world and often times exacerbating mental health conditions and leaving them hopeless.

However to simply blame ignorance, neglect or an overzealous CBSA obscures the principal source of the violence migrants in and out of detention face. It is the position of Canada, an imperialist, settler-colonial, and capitalist state that leads to the use of immigration detention to further exploit racialized communities in Canada. It is a tool to discipline those who speak up and as a terror tactic to destabilize immigrant communities. This abuse has gone on hand and hand with the overwhelming use of migrants since the building of the Canadian Railways used migrants as a source of cheap labour. To this day, Canada employs mass amounts of migrant labor as a disposable workforce (Ontario employing the most temporary foreign workers).

Immigration detention is not the only technique used to discipline migrant communities. Migrants are also often deported for minor crimes, including drug possession and even traffic law violations. Unemployment is also used to control migrants, as of 2014, over 14% of migrants were jobless, effectively making them apart of the reserve army of labor, a section of the proletariat utilized for competition and to drive down wages. This places most migrants solidly in the hard core of the proletariat. Often scapegoated these peoples are faced with little to no medical or social services and have the least protection from violence both state sponsored and community driven. Only through consolidated organization that refuses to work within the domains of liberal techniques of education and lobbying can the conditions of these communities be improved in more than superficial ways.

Based on a racist ideology of national chauvinism core to Canadian culture and the states creation, “temporary” foreign workers and other Migrants are considered to be a drain on health care and social services. This denies many migrants and refugees access while making them near impossible to obtain for the lucky few. The process to receive OHIP is precarious, over 200,000 migrants, refugees, and temporary foreign workers are denied coverage resulting in death, sickness, and exorbitant medical bills. All of these factors force communities into poverty. For migrants workplace injuries are more often ‘treated’ with deportation instead of medical care. Take for instance Javier Alonzo, who suffered a stroke in 2005, his employer attempted to have him deported instead of seeking medical service, which they successfully did when Javier suffered a second stroke that left him unable to work, he was then deported back to Mexico without access to health services [4].

All of this is dependant on if migrants can gain access to Canada in the first place, in 2001 out of 44,452 asylum seekers only 6,784 were accepted (a year later!). The Liberal government is party to this, Bill C-51 makes it far more difficult for migrants to gain access to Canada under the guise of ‘anti-terrorism’ efforts. If they are granted asylum, they have to dodge being thrown in jail, 87,317 migrants between 2006 and 2014 were jailed without committing any crimes, including over 800 children [5], that’s not even counting those arrested for minor crimes like drug possession and even traffic infractions. As of 2014 Canada currently jails approximately 11,000 migrants per year, and the situation is getting worse.

Canada deports roughly 35 people per day, approximately 117,531 between 2006 and 2014. This often takes the form of deportation raids. Take for example a woman named Jane and her 3 year old daughter; Jane was a migrant from Ghana in 1999 (and also a sexual assault survivor), in 2006 the CBSA forcibly entered a Toronto shelter looking for her. Jane described the violence faced saying, “It’s scary. I can’t go to sleep I’m scared not just for myself, but for others in shelters everywhere who are facing the same fear.” [6] The pigs are also, as one might guess, complacent and even participants in the terrorization of immigrant communities, in 2008 Fredy Villanueva was lynched by Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal, his brother (and witness to the murder) was later deported to Honduras despite being in the country since he was 12, and having no valid criminal record [7].

This function has also been linked to capital as one of many privatizations. G4S, a British multinational security corporation who provides protection for Canadian mining projects, also provide security for Toronto Immigration enforcement Centre for $36 million worth of contracts. G4S officers have abused migrants on many occasions, even killing one Jimmy Mubenga when they restrained him in 2012 during his deportation to Honduras. [8] G4S is known for providing the Israeli Defence Force with contracts and equipment utilized to kill Palestinians, and even running interrogation centres where over 6,000 Palestinians are tortured every day. [9]

The Revolutionary Student Movement-Peterborough and Revolutionary Communist Party (Organizing Committee)-Peterborough stand in solidarity with these striking migrants. We must organize against these heinous abuses and the CBSA. The Liberal government as agents of capital will not dismantle the system on which it functions. It now as always is up to the masses to work for the abolishing of immigration detention. This requires not just a letter to the minister or a member of parliament. These individuals are agents of oppression no matter what they say, no matter what they think they will always fall in line with the needs of capital and the Canadian state. These are the needs of a settler-colonial, imperialist, capitalist system. Instead a strong anti-racist organization is needed. We encourage those to get into contact with the End Immigration Detention Network (EIDN) in Peterborough. To better understand how immigration detention serve the capitalists and the state and how we can smash it RSM-PTBO will be organizing reading groups. It is only through revolutionary organizing that we will strike the death-nell of the racist practices of the Canadian State!

End Immigration Detention!

Solidarity with Striking Migrants!




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