Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Immigration-Detention System Not Flawless but Legal, Government Lawyer Says

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Immigration-Detention System Not Flawless but Legal, Government Lawyer Says

Article excerpt

Government: Immigrant-detention system legal


TORONTO - Canada's system of detaining some foreigners who cannot be readily deported may not be perfect but it is fair and constitutional, a government lawyer argued on Tuesday.

As such, he argued, it would be a mistake to throw out a law critics insist victimizes detainees because it is procedurally unfair and can lead to indefinite detention.

What's simply not true, Bernard Assan told Federal Court, is that anyone is locked up and left to rot.

"I'm not disputing that the interests at stake are important (but) if procedural rights are trampled on in particular circumstances, the law provides them avenues," Assan said. "They're allowed to make their case."

Jamaican Alvin Brown, who was detained for five years before being deported last year, is challenging the constitutionality of certain provisions in Canada's immigration laws. The father of six and his supporters argue that foreigners who cannot be deported for various reasons are subjected to cruel and unusual punishment in that they may spend years behind bars never knowing when they might be released.

In challenging the constitutionality of the system, Brown's lawyers supported by those from the End Immigration Detention Network argued the process is stacked against detainees.

Detention reviews that must take place every 30 days amount to rubber stamps in which the onus shift to detainees to provide "clear and compelling" reasons why previous decisions to detain them should be set aside, they said.

Brown's lengthy detention, Assan told Judge Simon Fothergill, resulted from Jamaica's refusal to provide travel documents and the fact that he had convictions for weapons offences. Assan noted a Superior Court justice in December rejected Brown's claim for damages arising out alleged violations of his charter rights.

"You can have an unconstitutional regime that occasionally produces a constitutional result," Fothergill interjected.

Each case is different and detainees have numerous ways to seek redress if they believe the circumstances of their detentions are unreasonable, the lawyer countered. …

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