2nd Session, 41st Parliament,
Volume 149, Issue 94
Thursday, November 6, 2014
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker
Canada Border Services Agency—Deaths of Detainees
Hon. Wilfred P. Moore: My question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Leader, yesterday Global News published a story dealing with the people who have died while in the custody of the Canada Border Services Agency. They have found nine people have died while in the custody of that agency. CBSA didn’t tell anybody about these deaths. Global News found these details by searching legal documents and coroners’ records.
When I spoke at second reading to a bill that I have introduced providing for oversight of CBSA, I told the chamber about the case involving Lucia Vega Jimenez, 42 years old, from Mexico. I want to recap what happened to this lady. She killed herself in a CBSA facility in the Vancouver International Airport on December 20, 2013. She hanged herself in the bathroom area of the windowless holding cell, where she was being held for transfer back to Mexico.
The jury at a coroner’s inquest into her death heard security contractors at the facility were not performing 70 per cent of the checks on inmates due to understaffing and that they falsified room-check records. The jury recommended the CBSA create a dedicated holding centre for immigration detainees to be staffed by CBSA employees, allow access to legal counsel, medical services, NGOs, spiritual and family visits and monitored Internet access. Telephones and calling cards also should be readily available, the jury recommended. Suicide prevention training should also be made mandatory for CBSA employees and contractors. In a statement, CBSA said that in response to the incident, it had modified the facility and increased oversight and monitoring. It also will, “Carefully review all findings and recommendations resulting from the inquest.”
Were you aware personally of the fact that nine people have died while in the custody of CBSA?
Hon. Claude Carignan (Leader of the Government): If you’re asking me whether I, Claude Carignan, was personally aware of these deaths, the answer is no. However, I’m here to answer on behalf of the government. I can assure you that the government does everything it can to ensure that people’s rights are respected and that the agencies that operate in Canada do so in accordance with their mandate and respect the rights of individuals.
Senator Moore: Leader, I didn’t expect you did know. This is shocking stuff, to say the least. It cries out for oversight; I think you have to agree with that. Any reasonable person would.
To have this type of activity, non-performance of duty, falsifying documents, not looking after people who are in a pretty tender situation, I don’t understand it.
It reminds me of the Robert Dziekanski case. Where is the Canadian hand-up? This is intolerable stuff, and I would like to know what has the Canada Border Services Agency done in detailed response to the request of the jury at the coroner’s inquest with regard to Ms. Jimenez? We never would have heard about Ms. Jimenez either had her family not come forward from Mexico.
This is Canada. This is an open, free democracy. What are we afraid of here? I don’t understand this. I’d like you, leader, to find out what CBSA has done in detail in response to that case and what it’s doing about having a proper holding facility.
I can’t believe that this would go on in this country.
Senator Carignan: Senator, you mentioned accusations regarding falsified documents, which is something I know nothing about. However, if you believe that crimes were committed, I encourage you to file a complaint with the appropriate authorities so that they can investigate and lay charges, if necessary.
It’s hard for me to comment on specific incidents, but I can assure you that the government expects all government agencies — in this case the Canada Border Services Agency — to act in accordance with the law and within their legal limits and obligations. Obviously, these agencies are also expected to respect the rights of individuals that apply in such matters, recognizing that the privacy expectations aren’t the same for the Canada Border Services Agency as they are within the country, for reasons you are aware of.
Senator Moore: It’s not me who is saying documents were falsified, leader. This is the jury at the coroner’s inquest, and they made findings. For you to suggest that I file a complaint with CBSA, we all know that that just goes internally with CBSA. That’s why we have to have oversight. That’s like asking me to mark my own examination paper.
I appreciate your comments that the employees and personnel of this agency or any other government agency must do their duties in accordance with the laws of the land, but it’s obvious, sir, that that’s not happening. We have to provide oversight and change that culture. We can’t let this continue to happen.
Senator Carignan: I think that was a comment, so I have no answer.
Senator Moore: It’s not my comment, leader. It’s the comment of the jurors, the comment of Canadian citizens. They think it’s improper. Don’t try to slide out and say it’s my comment. I’m bringing to you good information, sir, and I think it should be acted upon.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Senator Carignan, do you have a comment or answer?
Senator Carignan: It’s my understanding that this is Question Period.
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Leader, the incident that Senator Moore speaks of happened in my province, and, sadly, it was a woman who was very disturbed and was frightened to go home. She was being deported to an abusive relationship and was in a fragile state. When you make inquiries, I would like you to find out what criteria we use to deport a woman who has run away from an abusive situation and what is in place to protect women in such dire circumstances.
Senator Carignan: I will take your question as notice and provide a full answer at a later date.