BCCLA REACTS to statement of Public Safety Minister on CBSA accountability

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VANCOUVER (March 15, 2016) – The B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) responded this afternoon to the statement of the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Ralph Goodale, that “The Government is examining how best to provide the Canada Border Services Agency with appropriate review mechanisms (full government statement reproduced below for reference).

Josh Paterson, Executive Director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, stated:

“We are encouraged that the government has said that it will look at review mechanisms for CBSA. This is the first time we have heard a government even acknowledge that this is an issue.

Any such mechanism has to be completely independent of CBSA. It has to provide both real-time oversight to ensure compliance with law, policy and people’s rights, and after-the-fact review of CBSA’s conduct. At a minimum, it must be able to receive and deal with public complaints and complaints from third parties, initiate its own reviews and investigations of CBSA conduct even when there is no complaint, and include independent civilian investigation of critical incidents of harm or death involving CBSA officers.

We will continue to advocate with the government to ensure that it follows through. CBSA’s lack of any independent accountability mechanism can no longer be ignored.”

The BCCLA, the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, the Canadian Council for Refugees and other civil society organizations have publicly called for CBSA accountability twice in the last week, as two deaths in CBSA custody came to light. The organizations have repeated this call for the past several years. Last June, the Senate Standing Committee on National Security and Defence recommended both an oversight and review mechanism be created to supervise CBSA.

Backgrounder: Read the backgrounder on CBSA accountability from BCCLA, Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers and Canadian Council for Refugees

Government of Canada statement dated March 15, 2015:

“Minister Goodale is concerned about the two recent deaths in custody and his thoughts are with the families of those individuals. However, we are unable to comment about these cases while they are under investigation.

The mandate of the Canada Border Services Agency requires it to use detention only when necessary.

CBSA’s mandate also requires it to safeguard the health, well-being and safety of detainees.

Canada Border Services Agency officers must take into account the best interests of the child in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. They must also consider alternatives, such as transferring the child to the care of provincial child protection services.

Minister Goodale has met with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees regarding the global issue of immigration detention, and he welcomes the report his office published last October.

The Government is examining how best to provide the Canada Border Services Agency with appropriate review mechanisms.”