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No One Is Illegal - Toronto statement on Detentions & Security Designations

** Total persons detained since Harper came to power: Over 72,000
** Total persons detained (2010-2011): 8,838
** Percentage of persons detained in prisons: 35 percent (FY 2010-2011)
** Max. length of detention: Unlimited
** Average length of detention: 25 days (FY 2010-2011)
(Global Detention Project)

No One Is Illegal (NOII) Toronto has a long history of organizing against immigrant detentions, and in the course of this work supporting struggles for prisoner rights and for prison abolition. Today, on the one year anniversary of the 'G20 Main Conspiracy Group' plea deal that saw six of our comrades locked up while 11 were let go, we are joining with DAMN 2025 to speak out in support of our ally and friend Mandy Hiscocks’s application at the human rights tribunal in Ontario.

Read Mandy's statement, details of the application, and a solidarity statement by DAMN 2025 here.

Over the years, we have seen friends, family members and community members taken away from us and locked up. Some like Daniel Garcia and Alvaro Orozco grabbed from the streets, others like the Lizano-Sossas from their schools, and even others from anti-violence against women shelters or their homes.

These names and these statistics above paint a stark, brutal picture of immigrant detention in Canada. The vast majority of immigration detention takes place in Ontario where detainees are either locked up in the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) facility, the Toronto Immigration Holding Centre (TIHC), while over a third are also imprisoned in Provincial Detention Facilities, in the Greater Toronto Area.

Men are held in the Don Jail, the West Detention Centre, the East Detention Centre and in Maplehurst. Women are held at the Vanier Centre for women. Trans prisoners are shunted through this gendered system. Most disturbingly, long term male detainees (those CBSA can’t deport) are held at the Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay, far from legal resources, or social services, often far from family and community, in some cases for nearly a decade. Similarly there are women in Vanier who have been held for over five years.

Minister of Immigration Jason Kenney has defended CBSA facilities saying they used to “be hotels with good living conditions ... they're not prisons; they're not jails”. Yet the story of Jan Szamko is a painful reminder that nothing could be further from the truth. Jan Szamko, 31, was held in Toronto’s immigration detention, and died awaiting deportation after being denied appropriate medical care. He defecated on himself, passed out, was unable to understand what was being said to him but none of this was enough to get him a decent doctor.

The Toronto Immigration Holding Centre though terrible has much better conditions than the Provincial institutions. The assignment of detainees to provincial correctional facilities, termed as “security decisions”, are decisions made by an arbitrary process, in secrecy and with no transparency. CBSA has refused to release or even acknowledge the existence of their policy regarding security designations. In general, Immigrant detainees are moved out of the TIHC into a Provincial facility if there is any “criminality” in their background.

However, this can mean almost anything including: a) speaking back to the CBSA officer on arrest; b) having any arrests (not convictions) in the person’s background in Canada or any other country; or c) having a high public profile on the person’s case (such as the Albanian man who was detained at the West Detention Centre in order to try to avert media attention on his case).

Ironically, this can mean that the very persecution a refugee is fleeing becomes the reason to detain them in worse conditions. So a queer man arrested in the country he escaped for his sexuality could very well be moved out of the TIHC and in to a provincial prison due to that previous arrest.

Detention rarely solves anything in any cases, and certainly people have rights not to be victims of an abusive and arbitrary process (i.e. the process for security designations in Provincial facilities) but immigrant detainees have not even been charged with a crime. They are being held merely so that they can removed from Canada, a country where poor people from the Global south are not welcome.

The Conservatives are working to increase the number of immigrant detainees. New bills make it so that people who come with the help of people smugglers can be detained for six months without a detention review (like a bail hearing in immigration detention). A new bill before parliament, bill c-43, will make it easier to deport permanent residents who are convicted of crimes, or temporary residents that the Minister has taken a dislike to, and many of these will be detained before they are removed.

We call for an end to these detentions, but in the short term, we call on both the Provincial Ministry of Community and Correctional Services and the CBSA to create clear, fair, transparent processes for making security designations regarding detainees. What is it that they are afraid of that they have to hide their dirty decisions?

On December 9th, join us at 2:30pm at 180 Queen West to board buses to the Toronto Immigration Holding Centre. More details here.

Write to G20 Prisoners

Amanda Hiscocks
Kelly Pflug-Back
Vanier Centre for Women
P.O.Box 1040
655 Martin Street
Milton, Ontario
L9T 5E6 Canada

Alex Hundert
George J. Horton
c/o C.N.C.C.
1501 Fuller Ave.
Penetanguishene, Ontario
L9M 2H4 Canada

More information at http://guelphabc.noblogs.org