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Peterborough chapter calls on Monsef to take action for immigration detainees

The Council of Canadians Peterborough chapter was at a rally yesterday to demand an end to immigration detention.

The Peterborough Examiner reports, “A rally outside Peterborough-Kawartha MP Maryam Monsef’s constituency office Monday offered solidarity to immigrant detainees on hunger strikes at jails in Lindsay [about 45 kilometres west of Peterborough] and Toronto. About 40 people gathered at the Bethune St. office over noon hour to show their support for detainees who’ve been on hunger strike for several days. More than 50 detainees between the two jails haven’t eaten since July 11. They’re demanding to speak with Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister Ralph Goodale. They want to express their concerns about state of current jail conditions and are seeking an end to indefinite immigration detention in Canada.”

The article adds, “Monsef wasn’t at the office on Monday, but End Immigration Detention Network-Peterbrough left a letter for the MP asking her to put the pressure on her fellow minister.”

It also notes, “Dr. Michelle Fraser also left a letter for Monsef. She’s a family physician at Peterborough Regional Health Centre. Fraser attended the rally to show her support and drop off a letter of solidarity signed by more than 65 health professionals from across Canada. The letter was also emailed to Goodale on Thursday. …Some detainees with mental or physical illnesses have been transferred from immigration holding centres to maximum-security jails because it’s believed they’ll get better medical care there, she said. ‘So what we have is a system that’s using prisons as hospitals and that’s inappropriate. We’ve seen deaths of three immigration detainees in the past nine months, 15 since 2000, and as a physician that’s deeply worrisome to me’, Fraser said.”

The Canadian Press has reported, “The End Immigration Detention Network says immigration detainees previously went on a hunger strike that began on April 21, and met with officials from Canada Border Services Agency. But the group says CBSA has not followed through on promises it made and the detainees have begun the new hunger strike — this time calling for a meeting with elected officials.”

At any given time, between 520 and 700 people are in immigration detention (imprisonment without charges or trial) in Canada. Those who can’t be deported – sometimes because their home country is at war or won’t accept them – are often locked up in maximum security prisons for months or even years. The international standard is to limit immigration detention to 90 days, but in Canada there is no such limit. That means that in this country, unlike in the United States or European Union or as recommended by the United Nations, detainees awaiting deportation are jailed indefinitely.

Even The Globe and Mail editorial board has now commented, “Human rights advocates are right to raise concerns about the risk of arbitrariness in the system. It is also clear that many, if not most of the long-term detainees, some of whom suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or profound mental health issues, don’t belong in a criminal jail.”

On July 14, the Council of Canadians Regina chapter joined with the Colonialism No More – Solidarity Camp outside Goodale’s constituency office in Regina to demand that he meet with the immigration detainees on hunger strike.

To date, a spokesman for Goodale has only said the minister hopes to put forward proposals later this year.

Please CALL (613-947-1153), TWEET (@RalphGoodale) or e-mail (ralph.goodale@parl.gc.ca) to ask Goodale to meet with the detainees.

For more, please see the End Immigration Detention Network website here.

Further reading
Peterborough-Kawarthas chapter protests the indefinite detention of migrants (February 17, 2015)