Editorial Exchange: Canada's Border Services Agency Needs Independent Oversight

By Toronto Star | The Canadian Press, March 14, 2016 | Go to article overview

Editorial Exchange: Canada's Border Services Agency Needs Independent Oversight


Toronto Star, The Canadian Press


Editorial Exchange: Canada's Border Services Agency needs independent oversight

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An editorial from the Toronto Star, published March 11:

Thirteen. As of this week that's the number of people detained by the Canada Border Services Agency who have died in custody since 2000.

It's a disturbing total, and it's made worse by the fact that their names, the circumstances of their deaths and why they were being detained are kept secret by the agency. It's as if they didn't exist.

This should not be allowed in a supposedly open, accountable, caring democracy.

So it's no surprise that the announcement of the most recent death has led to yet another round of calls by human rights advocates for more transparency within the agency, the creation of an oversight body to hold it to account, and the establishment of an outside body to investigate deaths in custody.

That's the least the federal government should do.

Human rights organizations are also urging the government not to hold immigration detainees in maximum security prisons, but in immigration holding cells, and for an end to indefinite detention.

And as the Star has previously argued, the agency should act on recommendations from a study it itself commissioned and release some detainees into the community, where they can be monitored electronically.

The five human rights organizations, including the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and Amnesty International, are not alone in their call for more openness and accountability. Last year, a report issued by the Senate national security committee called for establishment of a civilian watchdog over the agency to ensure transparency and avoid any abuse of power.

But still the agency operates in secrecy. All it said in a March 7 announcement about the most recent death was that it had been notified by the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services that an individual under immigration detention at the Toronto East Detention Centre had passed away. …

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