Steps towards Alternatives to Detention in Canada

The Canadian government is undertaking reform of their immigration detention system including exploring alternatives to detention and reviewing the detention of children.

In collaboration with the Canadian Council for Refugees, an IDC member organisation, the Director of the IDC presented to the Canadian Border Service Agency on October 17. He discussed the value of investing in alternatives to detention, with a focus on alternatives that are appropriate for children and their guardians.

The reforms come after a string of deaths and hunger strikes in immigration detention, as well as a building civil society movement calling for an end to child detention. The International Human Rights Program at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law (IHRP) released the “No Life for a Child” report which outlines a roadmap to end immigration detention of children and prevent family separation. A joint statement was released by many orgaisations including the Canadian Paediatric Society, the Canadian Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists, The Office of the Ontario Child Advocate, the president of the Canadian Bar Association, and many other organizations. Hundreds of individual health care providers, lawyers, and child advocates have also endorsed this statement.

A broader immigration policy is also planned for 2017, which aims to maintain the current immigration target of 300,000 people annually and a new focus on “economic growth” and diversity provided by increased immigration. This positive sentiment towards migration is seconded by  the Advisory Council on Economic Growth and a recent national survey which found that Canadians are becoming more accepting of immigrants and calls for more humane treatment of migrants.