OCASI writes to Minister Goodale Re: Immigration Detainees on Hunger Strike


The Honorable Ralph Goodale
Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
269 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0P8 Canada

July 15, 2016

Dear Minister Goodale,

Re: Immigration Detainees on Hunger Strike

OCASI – Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants is writing to ask that you meet with the more than 60 immigration detainees presently on hunger strike at two Ontario prisons.

This is not the first time that immigration detainees in Ontario provincial jails have refused food, all in an attempt to seek redress for their inhumane detention conditions and to call for an end to indefinite maximum security immigration detention. In this instance, all they are seeking is to present these concerns to you in person.

People in immigration detention in Canada are being held without charges or trial, often in maximum security prisons. A disproportionate number are racialized, including a high number of Black and African men. Many children are also in detention because the only option given to their parents is to surrender custody – which is not a real choice.

Since 2000, at least fifteen people have died while in the custody of Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), including three men who died while in immigration detention since you took office as Minister of Public Safety on November 4, 2015.

As a community organization that is concerned with human rights and advocating with migrant and racialized communities, OCASI is deeply concerned that immigration detainees feel compelled to put their physical and mental health in jeopardy to be heard by elected officials. These detainees are already at tremendous risk of long-term negative consequences to their physical, mental and emotional health simply as a result of being detained by the government of Canada.

We acknowledge that the government announced in a statement released in May this year following the deaths of two men in immigration detention within a week of each other, that it is reviewing the detention program.

We urge you to meet with the detainees on hunger strike, whether as a part of the ongoing review and because they deserve to be treated with respect and dignity and have their concerns heard by decision-makers who have power over their well-being and safety.


Debbie Douglas
Executive Director

The Honorable John McCallum, Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship
The Honourable David Orazietti, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services (ON)
The Honourable Michael Coteau, Minister of Children and Youth Services and Minister Responsible for Anti-Racism(ON)