Statement by the Canada Border Services Agency on housing of Canadian children in immigration holding centres


The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) welcomes the University of Toronto’s International Human Rights Program (IHRP) report on Canadian children housed in immigration detention. The Government of Canada is committed to respecting human rights while upholding the rule of law. As part of Canada’s new National Immigration Detention Framework, the CBSA is working hard to create a better and fairer immigration detention system for the dignified treatment of individuals. This includes avoiding detaining and housing children in detention facilities while minimizing family separation as much as possible, and using community-based alternatives to detention to limit the housing of children in detention facilities. 

CBSA legislation and policy is clear in that children are detained only as a last resort and only after officers carefully consider what is in the best interest of the child(ren). Detention guidelines require officers to consider all reasonable alternatives before detaining a minor under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. In cases of individuals detained with minors (including those with Canadian citizenship), CBSA officers work with the parent(s) and child welfare authorities to determine what is in the best interest of the child. In all cases, the parent’s view is an important factor that is taken into consideration. The assessment may result in a child staying with their parent in an immigration holding centre if it is deemed to be in the best interest of the child(ren). 

The Honourable Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, announced the Framework in August 2016, including $138 million to improve immigration detention infrastructure and provide better mental and medical health services at CBSA immigration holding centres. In addition, the CBSA is working on strengthening stakeholder partnerships and increasing alternatives to detention to reduce the number of minors in detention.              

The CBSA has engaged the stakeholder community to implement the Framework and the dialogue to date has been positive. Cross-Canada roundtable discussions with stakeholders were completed in December 2016.

The CBSA remains fully engaged and committed to exercising its responsibility for detentions to the highest possible standards, with physical and mental health and well-being of detainees, as well as the safety and security of Canadians as the primary considerations. As part of the Framework, the CBSA is conducting a comprehensive review of its detention standards and policies, and will make recommendations for the Minister’s consideration to bring about lasting changes to the detention program. The Agency will continue to work with stakeholders to implement the Framework and reduce the number of minors in detention.


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