VANCOUVER – Josh Paterson, Executive Director of the BC Civil Liberties Association, reacted today to reports that at least nine individuals have died in the custody of the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), and its predecessor agency, since 2000. Most are reported to have died in provincially-run detention facilities while being held for immigration-related reasons. This information was released earlier today in a Global News report.
Paterson stated: “This report of numerous deaths in CBSA custody shows, yet again, why there must be independent oversight of the operations of our border police. Two coroner’s inquests in Ontario over the past number of years had recommended that CBSA correct failures in communication on detainee medical issues. Despite this, the BC coroner recently heard of CBSA’s failure to communicate between agencies about Lucía Vega Jiménez’s apparent mental health problem before her tragic death. CBSA didn’t even know what was going on in its own airport detention centre in the lead-up to her death. We have no reason to be confident in CBSA’s ability to fix the dramatic problems identified by the recent coroner’s inquest without strong independent oversight of its operations.”
“We are also disturbed that it took investigative reporting for these deaths to become public knowledge – just like when Lucía Vega Jiménez died and CBSA failed to disclose her death the the public. CBSA now says that it will notify the public of deaths in custody, but the failure to do so for more than a decade again suggests that strong oversight of CBSA is needed.”