In a historic move, BC has become the first Canadian province to end immigration detention in its jails! The province will give Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) its 12-month written notice to terminate the immigration detention contract this week.
Last month, West Coast LEAF shared that the BC Minister of Public Safety was reviewing the province’s contract with CBSA and asked our community to join us in supporting a Vancouver City Council motion that sent a strong message to the province: to invest in community-based organizations that provide support rather than in detention and surveillance. In response, council voted unanimously in favour of ending immigration detention in the province’s jails.
And last week, the province listened, and is terminating the CBSA’s contract with BC prisons.
Every year, Canada detains tens of thousands of migrants in some of the most restrictive conditions, including maximum security provincial jails.
While immigration detention falls within federal jurisdiction, the CBSA incarcerates nearly half of all immigration detainees in provincial jails. Under agreement with CBSA, BC’s jails had been used to imprison people seeking sanctuary.
Canada is one of the few countries in the global north that does not limit the amount of time someone can be held in immigration detention, meaning people can be detained for months or years with no end in sight.
Women, transgender, and non-binary migrants face a higher risk of prolonged and indefinite detention in BC jails—for no reason other than being a person without legal status.
BC’s decision is an important first step to ending this harmful practice throughout the country. It is also a repudiation of the immigration detention system itself. We urge the federal government not to respond to this decision by shifting migrants to federally operated holding centres. Other provinces and the federal government must follow BC’s example and turn the tide on immigration detention.
Thank you to survivors of immigration detention who spoke out, our fellow campaign supporter organizations, and everyone who took action and helped make this possible!