1st Session, 42nd Parliament,
Volume 150, Issue 133

Thursday, June 15, 2017
The Honourable George J. Furey, Speaker

Public Safety

Canada Border Services Agency—Detention of Refugee Children

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, my question is also to the leader in the Senate.

Leader, I have asked you this question many times; I’m sure you are getting tired of it. I’m of the opinion, leader, that the minister made a commitment almost two years ago about the detention of migrant children and we still do not have the answers. I know you won’t have the answers today, but I’m hoping that when we come back, we will.

As you know, leader, based on data from 2011 to 2015, immigration detention centres across Canada hold an average of 242 children a year, often due to failed refugee claims.

On the one hand, I’m glad that Minister Goodale, when he came to us two years ago, talked about alternatives to detention so children would not be detained, but it has been two years. What has been happening?


Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I thank the honourable senator for her question and her ongoing interest in this matter. It’s not at all an irritation, and I would be happy to seek an update from the minister. I know he is giving priority to this concern, and I hope to have positive news to report when I have the inquiry returned.

Senator Jaffer: I have a supplementary question. Leader, I was in error to say the minister is not doing anything. That wouldn’t be fair. Senator Oh and I met with people in Toronto and Montreal. We had a panel session with the UNHCR as to what Canada is doing with the detention of children, especially in Toronto and Montreal.

My angst is that it’s done by the love of some people and maybe the federal government gives some money. But I’m asking you to please ask the ministers, because I believe we need to have a national strategy and we need to have a policy that we will never detain children. For example, Montreal has a great program, as does Toronto, but those are just two. I’m asking for a national strategy.

Senator Harder: I will add that to my inquiry. Thank you.