top of page

UN investigates Canada for human rights abuse after Liberals’ proposal to house illegal immigrants in jails

May 20, 2024

Credits @FFHR.CZ

The United Nations (UN,) after receiving complaints about arbitrary detention, have opened an investigation into Canadian jails to “gather information where people are deprived of their liberty.”

Investigators from the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention began their tour of Canadian detention centres and police stations Monday, per Blacklock’s Reporter. 

The UN investigation follows the Trudeau Liberal’s budget proposal to use federal prisons to temporarily house illegal immigrants suspected of criminality.

“The experts will gather information from places where people are deprived of their liberty including prisons, police stations and institutions for juveniles, migrants and people with psychosocial disabilities,” investigators wrote in a statement.

The panel, led by New Zealander Dr. Matthew Gillett, a human rights lawyer, will tour holding cells in BC, Alberta, Ontario and Québec. 

A final report to the UN is due in 2025.

Investigators did not explain in detail its purpose in visiting the provinces, but called it an “official visit” over nine days “to assess the situation regarding deprivation of liberty in the country.” 

The panel’s mandate is to “cover the issue of administrative custody for asylum seekers and immigrants,” it said.

The Canada Border Services Agency CBSA) in 2023 had up to 1,662 foreigners in custody, typically as a “danger to the public” or for being deemed “unlikely to appear” at a scheduled deportation hearing. Typical detention periods lasted an average 16 days.

Figures disclosed in an Inquiry Of Ministry tabled April 3 in the House of Commons show many more foreign fugitives, a total 28,145, are wanted by CBSA but remained at large including 646 known criminals. 

“Detention in the course of migration proceedings must be used only as a last resort and is permissible only for the shortest period of time in each individual case,” the UN panel wrote in a 2024 report. 

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s April 16 budget proposed rewriting regulations to permit the use of vacant cells in federal penitentiaries to hold illegal immigrants and refugee claimants deemed a risk to public safety. 

“The government proposes to introduce amendments to the Corrections And Conditional Release Act and the Immigration And Refugee Protection Act to enable the use of federal correctional facilities for the purpose of high risk immigration detention,” Freeland’s budget states. 

Immigration Minister Marc Miller told reporters April 30 the illegal immigrants to be held in penitentiaries are “mostly public safety related.”

“Frankly there are people who are not entitled to be in this country,” he added. 

“They have received due process upon due process.”

According to the Correctional Service of Canada, the federal prison system has thousands of vacant cells. With a total of 16,382 cells, figures from 2022, the most recent data available, show there were 13,054 inmates in custody.


bottom of page