On November 6, 2017 Ralph Goodale, Canada’s Public Safety Minister, issued a Ministerial Direction to the Canada Border Services Agency (“CBSA”) titled Minors in Canada’s Immigration Detention System (the “Ministerial Direction”), as part of its National Immigration Detention Framework (the “NIDF”). The Ministerial Direction notes that:
- Canada’s immigration detention program is based on the principle that detention shall be used only as a last resort, in limited circumstances and only after appropriate alternatives to detention (“ATDs”) are considered and determined to be unsuitable or unavailable;
- The well-being of children, family unity and the use of ATDs shall be core tenets underpinning policy direction, in accordance with the expectations and values of Canadians;
- The best interests of a child shall be a primary consideration to be assessed against other primary and mandatory factors in legislation;
- That Canada has the objective to stop the detention or housing minors and family separation, except in extremely limited circumstances;
- That Canada will ensure that the detention or housing of a minor or the separation of a minor from his/her detained parent(s) or guardian(s) is for the shortest time possible; and
- That Canada will never place minors in segregation or segregate them.
Prior to the NIDF and the Ministerial Direction the number of minors that the CBSA had been holding in detention had been steadily decreasing.
According to internal government statistics, from April 1, 2016 to December 31, 2016 the parents of accompanied minors were detained for the following reasons: 78.95% (90) for unlikely to appear, 10.52% (12) for examination, and 10.52% (12) for identity.
As well, the average length of time that a minor was detained also had fallen dramatically.
Given the current influx of refugees arriving in Canada from the United States, it will be interesting to see if CBSA is able to maintain the trend, even with the introduction of the NDIF. If it does, then I think it would be reasonable to presume that the NDIF was a success.