Minister Goodale issues new direction on keeping children out of Canada’s immigration detention system and keeping families together

News Release

As part of the Government of Canada’s work to create a better, fairer immigration detention system, the Honourable Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, today issued Ministerial Direction to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) on the treatment of minors in Canada’s immigration detention system. This direction is in addition to improvements currently being made to the system.

The key objective of the Ministerial Direction is to – as much as humanly possible – keep children out of detention, and keep families together. The Ministerial Direction makes it clear that the Best Interests of the Child must be given primary consideration. This will be achieved by actively and continuously seeking alternatives to detention when unconditional release is inappropriate. These alternatives can include in-person reporting, cash or performance bonds, community supervision and voice reporting. The Direction will also prohibit the segregation of minors.

To implement the Direction, the CBSA issued a National Directive for the Detention or Housing of Minors to guide officers when making detention decisions.

These initiatives are part of the new National Immigration Detention Framework (NIDF), announced in August 2016, which includes up to $138 million to improve immigration detention infrastructure, provide better mental and medical health services at CBSA immigration holding centres, expand partnerships and alternatives to detention, and reduce the number of minors in detention.

With input from Canadians in public consultations earlier this year, the implementation of the NIDF is advancing. The CBSA will soon begin contract negotiations to have the Salvation Army, the John Howard Society of Canada and the Toronto Bail Program provide supervision and case management services to individuals released to the community, starting in spring 2018.

At the same time, infrastructure projects are moving forward. Construction has started on the British Columbia Immigration Holding Centre (IHC); the initial schematic design has been finalized and an architect has been engaged to create a new IHC in Laval, Quebec; and construction and retrofit has begun at the Toronto IHC.

In addition, the CBSA has entered into a contract with the Canadian Red Cross to begin monitoring detention conditions in CBSA and provincial detention centres. Detention statistics now are being regularly posted on the CBSA website to increase transparency about detention volumes across Canada. The CBSA has finalized detention agreements with provincial authorities in Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia. Finally, the provision of mental health and medical services in IHCs is being increased and the risk assessment process is being improved. All of these initiatives will help realize core objectives of the NIDF and contribute to the transformation of our immigration detention system.


“The Government of Canada is committed to keeping children out of immigration detention as much as humanly possible and keeping families together. We also want to effectively limit the use of detention to those difficult cases where there are serious concerns about the individual being unidentified, a flight risk or a danger to the public; and we need to minimize the use of provincial jails. While the United Nations has said that Canada’s immigration detention system remains exemplary worldwide, better is always possible. Today’s announcement reaffirms our commitment to an improved, fairer immigration detention system for the humane and dignified treatment of individuals while upholding public safety.”

– Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Quick Facts

  • Immigration detention is not punitive but exercised to ensure the integrity of the immigration system and to ensure public safety. Detention is a last resort and officers must always consider alternatives.

  • With respect to vulnerable individuals, CBSA policy stipulates that, where safety or security is not an issue, detention is to be avoided and considered only as a measure of last resort for vulnerable populations, including elderly persons, pregnant women, victims of trafficking and minors.

  • Children are detained only as a last resort. When parents are detained, CBSA officers work with parents and child welfare authorities. While alternatives are considered first, some parents have preferred their children to be housed with them.

  • In 2016-2017, a total of 162 minors were detained or housed with parents or guardians in an Immigration Holding Centre. This represents a 19.4% decrease over the previous year (2015-2016) and a 30.2% decrease since 2014-2015.

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