British Columbia ends immigration detention arrangement with CBSA, citing human rights

British Columbia is ending a deal with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to hold immigration detainees in provincial correctional facilities, saying the deal doesn’t align with its stance on human rights the man.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said in a statement that the province conducted a review that analyzed all aspects of its contract with the agency, including public safety, and consulted with advocacy groups.

He says it has highlighted that some aspects of the arrangement do not align with the government’s commitment to upholding human rights standards or its dedication to the pursuit of social justice and fairness for all.

The move follows calls from human rights advocates in British Columbia urging the province to end its contract with the CBSA and stop incarcerating immigrants and refugees in provincial jails.

A coalition of human rights organizations and advocates — including the BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA), Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International — launched a campaign in October, urging Canadians to call on the provincial government to stop allowing the CBSA to use provincial jails to lock up asylum seekers.

Ketty Nivyabandi, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada, said in a statement that she congratulates British Columbia for being the first province to make the decision.

“This is a real human rights victory, a victory that upholds the dignity and rights of people who come to Canada seeking safety or a better life,” she said.

According to campaign organizers, between April 2019 and March 2020, nearly 9,000 people were in immigration detention in Canada, including 138 infants and children. Since 2000, at least 16 people have died in these detention centers.

In the statement, associate director of disability rights at Human Rights Watch, Samer Muscati, added that he hopes the decision will inspire other provinces and the federal government to follow suit.

Farnworth says BC Corrections will provide CBSA with 12 months’ notice as required by their current contract.

“BC Corrections is committed to working with the CBSA to develop a safe and effective transition plan that upholds our shared commitment to public safety while ensuring that the rights of individuals are preserved and protected,” said Farnworth.