Minister Goodale announces roll-out of expanded Alternatives to Detention Program through the National Immigration Detention Framework

News release

OTTAWA, Canada - As another step toward better and fairer ways to handle difficult immigration cases, the Government of Canada today unveiled new elements to the "Alternatives to Detention" (ATD) program of the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).

Developed in close consultation with stakeholders including the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Canada and the Canadian Council for Refugees, new ATDs will result in fewer people in immigration detention overall, better options for managing vulnerable people or family situations in which the best interests of children must be a key priority, and greater national consistency in the way individuals are treated across the country - all while upholding public safety and national security.

Prior to the launch of this new national program, the only ATD generally available for the CBSA to use in most of the country was the imposition of a deposit or guarantee, coupled with reporting conditions. Expanded options nationally available now include:

  • Community Case Management and Supervision Services (CCMS): This alternative offers in-community tailored case management services to individuals released from detention. The CBSA is contracting with service providers located across Canada, including the Salvation Army, the John Howard Society of Canada, and the Toronto Bail Program. These organizations have the combined capacity to supervise in community up to 800 people and provide specific programming aimed at facilitating compliance with immigration requirements.

  • Voice Reporting (VR): The VR system will use biometric voiceprint technology to enable as many as 10,000 individuals to report to the CBSA at agreed upon intervals, using either cellphones or landlines. This will provide more equitable treatment for people in remote locations or those who would otherwise need to travel long distances to fulfill CBSA reporting requirements, thus enhancing compliance.

  • Electronic Monitoring (EM): As a pilot program dealing with up to 20 cases, EM will be test-run in the Greater Toronto Area as an ATD for individuals who require a higher level of intervention to ensure the risks they present are properly mitigated. The monitoring may also be coupled with support programming through CCMS. The necessary EM technology is being delivered with the cooperation of the Correctional Service of Canada.

CBSA officers are called upon to make important decisions every day about the safety and admissibility of tens of thousands of foreign nationals seeking to enter or remain in Canada. In cases where a person’s identity has not been adequately established, or where the person may be unlikely to appear for an immigration proceeding, or may be a danger to the public, officers may be required to exercise their power to detain or use ATDs. CBSA officers use these options to keep Canadians safe and preserve the integrity of the immigration program. They will now have new alternatives to detention to deploy in suitable circumstances and to ensure detention is a measure of last resort.

The Honourable Minister Ralph Goodale launched a new National Immigration Detention Framework in the summer of 2016. It includes $138 million to upgrade federal immigration detention facilities; reduce reliance on provincial correctional centres; ensure appropriate services, programming and accountability, and increase workable alternatives to detention. Since last fall, the framework also includes an explicit Ministerial Direction on the Housing and Detention of Minors focused on the best interests of the child.

With respect to the transparency and accountability of CBSA operations overall, any agency activity that touches upon national security is now subject to review by the new National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians. CBSA will also be covered by the new expert review mechanisms proposed in the government's new national security Bill C-59. For concerns about officer behaviour or agency conduct unrelated to national security, the government is preparing new legislation to provide appropriate scrutiny and recourse tools.


“The introduction of an expanded Alternatives to Detention Program is a pillar of CBSA’s efforts to treat people within the immigration system with the utmost dignity and respect, while balancing the need for public safety. This initiative is designed to complement other efforts under the National Immigration Detention Framework, such as the Ministerial Direction on minors issued last fall, and national risk based policies, to safeguard the health, well-being and safety of individuals in our care.”

– The Honourable Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

“UNHCR – the UN Refugee Agency -- welcomes Canada’s milestone progress today towards ending the detention of children in immigration processes by rolling out national alternatives to detention. Keeping children and their families out of detention and ensuring families stay together is in the best of interests of children. UNHCR believes that there are effective ways to manage borders and guarantee security without resorting to the detention of people who are seeking safety in Canada, and Minister Goodale and Canada must be commended for taking a major step into this direction.”

–- Jean-Nicolas Beuze, UNHCR Representative in Canada

“The Toronto Bail Program remains committed to continuing its partnership with the CBSA, for the delivery of a community case management and supervision program in the GTA region. Established as a local grassroots initiative over 23 years ago, the immigration supervision program has been instrumental in supporting the release of thousands of immigration clientele in the GTA, who may have otherwise remained detained. We look forward to supporting the expansion of community release programming across the rest of the country, enabling the safe management of individuals in the community, and fostering our ongoing partnership with the CBSA and other community organizations.“

– Dave Scott, Executive Director, Toronto Bail Program

"The John Howard Society of Canada is pleased to be partnering with the CBSA to provide alternatives to detention for individuals who can safely reside in the community pending the resolution of their immigration issues.  John Howard Societies across the country share the conviction that detention and custody should be used with restraint and look forward to providing community services to promote safety and reduce the reliance on detention."

– Catherine Latimer, Executive Director, John Howard Society of Canada

"The Salvation Army is pleased to be partnering with the Canada Border Services Agency in the delivery of alternatives to detention, which include residential services and community case management for some individuals. As one of the largest direct providers of social services in the country – a mission that has included providing services to newcomers to Canada – The Salvation Army has the privilege of serving in 400 Canadian communities from coast to coast to coast. The program announced today allows us to do this on a new level.”

– Lieut.-Colonel John Murray, Secretary for Communications, The Salvation Army

"The Canadian Council for Refugees is eager to see a reduction in the detention of non-citizens, including refugee claimants, under Canada's immigration legislation. The introduction of an Alternatives to Detention program provides an important opportunity to better respect non-citizens' right to liberty and reduce unnecessary detention costs. We look forward to continued dialogue to ensure the program meets these goals."

– Claire Roque, President, Canadian Council for Refugees

Quick facts

  • Immigration detention continues to be a necessary immigration enforcement tool designed to preserve program integrity and public safety. Immigration detention is not punitive. Detention is a last resort and officers must always consider alternatives.

  • Only those individuals whose risk can be effectively managed through ATDs are considered for community release.

  • A CBSA officer’s decision to detain a person under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act is subject to a review by the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB), an independent quasi-judicial tribunal.

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