Immigration Detentions in Canada

About Immigration Detentions in Canada

Canada’s immigration law permits Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers to detain permanent residents and foreign nationals under certain conditions. Of course, officers must consider all reasonable alternatives before making this decision. In this article, we’ll explore when an officer detains an individual, and how many detentions in Canada there have been in the last year.

When an officer detains an individual

According to the CBSA, officers can detain a foreign national or permanent resident at a port of entry if:

  • it is necessary to complete an examination
  • there are reasons to believe that the person is inadmissible on grounds of security, violating human or international rights, serious criminality, criminality or organized criminality.

In addition, CBSA officers can detain a foreign national if:

  1. they have reasonable grounds to believe the person is:
    • unlikely to appear for an immigration proceeding (for example, examination, hearing, removal)
    • a danger to the public
    • unable to satisfy the officer of their identity
  2. they are designated as part of an irregular arrival by the Minister of Public Safety.

Here you can find more info about detentions. Also, you may find reasons for continuing detention in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations.

The rights of detained individuals

Detained individuals are subject to international best practices and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Several key principles prioritize the health, well-being, and safety of those held for immigration purposes. Detained individuals also possess various rights, including the right to be informed about:

  • the reason(s) for their detention and having access to a CBSA officer;
  • their entitlement to legal representation and to meet with a lawyer in person or by phone if required.

Detained individuals can also contact a representative of their country’s embassy or consulate, as well as non-governmental organizations. If the individual does not understand or speak the language in which immigration proceedings are being conducted (English or French), they are entitled to an interpreter’s assistance. Moreover, detained individuals have the right to receive medical attention and practice their religion.

Detentions in Canada: Statistics

The CBSA provided a report of the quarterly detention statistics for the first fiscal year 2022 to 2023. According to that report, the number of entries by foreign nationals to Canada in Q1 was 5,156,147. Moreover, the total of persons detained was 1,391.

The report also showed that Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia continued to have the largest number of detainees. It is important to mention that in 2022 some of these provinces ended their arrangement with Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to hold immigration detainees in their correctional centres.

In addition, over the first fiscal year 2022 to 2023, the grounds for detention that were most used were “unlikely to appear” and “unlikely to appear / danger to the public.” Officers can detain a person if they believe a person is unlikely to appear for:

  • examination,
  • an admissibility hearing,
  • removal from Canada, or
  • at a proceeding that could lead to the making of a removal order.

The CBSA pointed out that a person may be detained on multiple grounds for detention. Therefore, the total number of persons detained by ground for detention (1,399), when added together, could be greater than the total number of persons detained in that quarter (1,391).

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