Canada's immigration detention program to get $138M makeover

Canada's Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has announced that the government will invest $138 million into the country's immigration detention program.

The immigration detention facilities in Vancouver and Laval, Que., are also set to be replaced.

Goodale, who made the announcement Monday morning at the Laval Immigration Holding Centre​, says the objective is to make detention a last resort.

The government will begin consultations with various stakeholders, with the aim of finding alternatives and ways to minimize the number of minors in detention.

"In my first few months as minister responsible for Canada Border Services Agency, I have certainly heard the concerns about immigration detention and I've studied those concerns with great care," Goodale said.

"The government is anxious to address the weaknesses that exist and to do better."

According to the Canada Border Services Agency, there are, on average, 450 to 500 people who are detained at any given time under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

The End Immigration Detention Network says 15 people have died in detention while in CBSA custody since 2000.

A Red Cross investigation in 2014 found numerous shortcomings at facilities for immigrant detainees, including overcrowding and inadequate mental health care.

Newcomers are often held in provincial jails or police facilities alongside suspected gang members and violent offenders.

The reform objectives

  • Increase the availability of alternatives to detention.
  • Reduce the use of provincial jails for immigration detention to prevent the interaction of immigration and criminal detainees.
  • Avoid detaining minors in the facilities as much as possible.
  • Improve physical and mental health care offered to those detained.
  • Maintain ready access to facilities for agencies such as the Red Cross, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees as well as legal and spiritual advisers.
  • Increase transparency.

In the afternoon, Goodale will meet with Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre and Quebec Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux at the anti-radicalization centre in Montreal.