ACAT Canada – Urgent Action on Immigration Detention in Canada

Just this week the highly respected human rights organization ACAT Canada issued a new urgent appeal, ‘Canada – La surveillance des pratiques de l’Agence des services frontaliers en matière de mauvais traitements’.

In the urgent appeal, which was published on 23 November 2020, ACAT Canada calls on Canadian human rights activists to write to Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister of Justice & Attorney General Lametti, demanding that an OPCAT-compliant oversight body be instituted for places of immigration detention operated by the Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA) and to similarly oversee the agency’s wider activities.

ACAT Canada – Appel à l’action urgents.

Based on an oversight model first advanced by the Canadian Council for Refugees in March 2016, ACAT Canada’s appeal forcefully argues that such a mechanism would, among other functions, fill the current void in oversight of places of immigration detention in Canada. In November 2018 the UN Committee against Torture had also urged Canada to establish an effective and independent oversight mechanism of the CBSA and its detention facilities.

At present such facilities are monitored by the Canadian Red Cross under an agreement with the CBSA. To date, however, just one report of the Canadian Red Cross’ monitoring activities has been made public. Consequently, such facilities remain largely closed off from public scrutiny.

More specifically, the ACAT Canada appeal urges the following (available in French):

Nous vous suggérons d’écrire au premier ministre du Canada et à son ministre de la Justice, afin que soit mise en œuvre une forme efficace de mécanisme indépendant de surveillance des actions de l’ASFC. Aucun être humain ne devrait voir sa dignité dégradée en raison d’un manque de reddition de comptes d’une agence fédérale. En s’inspirant du modèle de Mécanisme d’imputabilité de l’Agence des services frontaliers du Canada proposé par le CCR en 2016 et en ratifiant l’OPCAT comme promis en diverses occasions, le Canada assurerait les droits humains des personnes migrantes, et ce, en accord avec la Convention relative au statut des réfugiés (articles 31 et 32 sur les mesures pénales contre des réfugiés irréguliers et sur la règle de non-refoulement, aussi stipulée à l’article 3 de la Convention contre la torture).

The reference to the OPCAT is very apt: after all, how many years have now passed since we were informed that the Optional Protocol could no longer be optional for Canada? Readers can access ACAT Canada’s timely appeal here.

For the time-poor, children-many, and/or just plain-busy & Covid-19-frazzled denizens of Canada today the action also includes a very welcome suggested draft letter to spur and inspire us into action. Are you ready?!


Find out more about ACAT Canada, including how to support the organization.

Read the Canadian Council for Refugees proposed oversight model of immigration detention in French and English.

Read a recent update on the state of immigration detention in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Find out more about the Canadian Red Cross’ monitoring activities of places of immigration detention.