Detention system | Canada criticized by UN experts

Detention system | Canada criticized by UN experts
Detention system | Canada criticized by UN experts

(Ottawa) A United Nations panel of experts says Canada is failing to ensure fair justice, pointing to delays in trials and problems with initiatives to reduce the rate of Indigenous people behind bars.


Posted at 6:01 p.m.

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention also believes that we must limit the length of time that Canada can keep foreigners in detention without charge.

He also points out that the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has no formal oversight body, even though border guards interact with some of the most vulnerable people in Canada.

Ottawa can detain foreigners without charge when it is not possible to identify them or when immigration officials suspect they will not show up for hearings that determine whether they can stay in Canada.

The experts visited four provinces just as Ottawa announced its intention to use federal prisons for immigration detention, after the provinces withdrew from agreements providing for the use of prisons for this purpose.

U.N. committee chairman Matthew Gillet told reporters in Ottawa that oversight and accountability are what prevent countries like Canada from violating international law.

“While we certainly hope that CBSA officials carry out their work professionally and with good ethical values, if there is no oversight mechanism, it only increases the risk of errors and potentially even abuse,” he said at a press conference on Friday.

The committee also said initiatives intended to reduce the disproportionate rate of Indigenous people in prison are not adequately managed or funded.

Experts have cited the Gladue reports, which aim to help courts understand how colonization has shaped offenders’ lives, as an example of a system that isn’t working.

The committee argued that the process of developing such reports can be ineffective and traumatic for defendants.

U.N. officials have found that Canada does generally well when it comes to avoiding excessive force and following proper arrest procedures.

He praised initiatives that have reduced incarceration, such as Ontario’s reforms for youth in custody.

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