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Migrant rights coalition denied status at BC Coroners Service inquest

24 Hours Vancouver reports, “Some advocacy groups demanding a public hearing into the suicide death of a woman [Lucia Vega Jimenez] in Canada Border Services Agency’s custody have been rejected from participatory status at the BC Coroners Service inquest.”

Lucia was a 42-year-old undocumented hotel worker who hung herself in December 2013 in a Canadian Border Services Agency holding cell at the Vancouver International Airport just prior to her scheduled deportation to Mexico.

“A coalition of eight immigrant, refugee and Latin American groups say they’ve been denied the right to call and examine witnesses at the coroner’s inquest scheduled for Sept. 29.” The coalition includes the Council of Canadians, Building Bridges to Human Rights – Vancouver, Latinos in Action, Mexicans in Vancouver, Morena Vancouver, No One Is Illegal, Proyecto Cultural Sur Vancouver, and Sanctuary Health.

“Rocco Trigueros with Mexicans Living in Vancouver said the groups want to call three witnesses who have new information on what happened while Jimenez was in custody. …He said the groups have also set up a bank account in case Jimenez’s family wanted to travel to Canada, but have had no success reaching the family.”

The coalition has stated, “It is imperative that this inquiry bring to light not only who or what contributed to Lucia’s death, but also the bigger question of migrant detention. This is not the first death or suicide of a migrant in detention or while facing deportation.”

These other deaths include Habtom Kibraeb who killed himself in 2010 after losing his appeal for asylum, Hossein Blujani who killed himself in 2012 after being denied status, and the murder-suicide of Mohamed, Shyroz and Qyzra Walji in 2013.

But, as noted in the 24 Hours article, “Barb McLintock, spokeswoman for the coroners service, said presiding coroner Margaret Janzen had reviewed the groups’ material and determined the coalition would not be a ‘public interest group’. …[McLintock adds], ‘This is not a wide-ranging inquiry to the whole system of refugees in Canada.'”

The Tyee adds, “Out of four groups applying for ‘participant status’ in the inquest, which allows lawyers to cross-examine witnesses and make submissions, only the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and Canadian Council for Refugees were accepted.”

We will be monitoring the inquest, push for the critical questions to be asked, and continue to advocate for migrant rights.

The Council of Canadians recognizes that historically unequal economic relations, resource exploitation, ‘trade’ agreements and increasingly climate change create the conditions which contribute to the migration of people, and that migrants face unjust treatment and danger crossing militarized borders as they flee these circumstances. They face further discrimination, racism and hardship as undocumented residents in ‘First World’ countries like Canada that often bear responsibility for the conditions which forced their migration from their home countries. In an era with no restrictions on the flow of global capital, we question the restrictions on the movement and freedom of people.

Further reading
The inquest into the death of Lucia Vega Jimenez