CANADA CBSA waives obligation to trace all separated children

CBSA waives obligation to trace all separated children

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These parents were featured in a 2020 Radio-Canada/CBC story after a husband was detained and separated from his children while they were seeking asylum in Canada. (Michelle Aspiro/Radio-Canada)

The Canada Border Services Agency waives its obligation to track all children separated from at least one immigration detained parent.

The initial pledge came after Radio-Canada/CBC reported on a father who was separated from his two children upon his arrival at the Canadian border in December 2020.

The same report states that in 2019 alone, at least 182 children were separated from their parents held at the Laval Immigration Detention Center.

In response to this story, the Border Agency (CBSA) announced that it would begin compiling national statistics on minors separated from at least one detained parent.

It is clear that the CBSA is relinquishing its obligation to count all family separations as a result of immigrant detention.— Hannah Gross, Human Rights Watch

It has now become known to Radio-Canada/CBC that the CBSA has adopted a much narrower definition of children, which it has begun to count.

The border agency has confirmed that it will only keep records of children separated from both parents or a legal guardian. These minors are handed over to other family members or youth protection services.

In other words, if a child is separated from a detained parent but lives abroad with the other parent, Canada Borders Agency no longer intends to count them.

Under this limited definition, six minors were separated from their parents between January 2022 and June 2022.

Children separated from their parents

Hannah Gross, a Human Rights Watch researcher, is also an immigration and refugee lawyer with experience in detention of migrants. She said she didn’t think the numbers reflected the “scale and breadth” of the problem.

Immigration detention deprives parents of the ability to protect their children.— Hannah Gross, Human Rights Watch

“When you don’t have a definition to start with that can cover the situation of children who are torn from either of their parents, you can’t even begin to consider the harm the system has on children and their parents.” she said.

“It is clear that the CBSA is relinquishing its obligation to count all family separations as a result of immigrant detention.”

The number of detained migrants has decreased during the pandemic, including due to the closure of borders.

Typically, the border agency imprisons over 8,000 migrants a year, including many parents of children.

CBSA Immigration Detention Center in Laval, Queensland, 2020 view. There are two other detention centers, one in Toronto and one in Surrey, British Columbia. (Ivan Demers/Radio-Canada)

According to the CBSA’s own data, the vast majority of them do not pose a threat to Canada’s security. Most are being held because the CBSA believes they may not show up for immigration procedures.

Many studies have documented the harmful effects of detention on migrants. In June 2021, Gross wrote a report titled “I Didn’t Feel Like a Human Being There – Immigration Detention in Canada and Its Impact on Mental Health”.

“Even after children are reunited with their parents, the effects of detention are not simply erased. I interviewed a woman who had been separated from her children, and she described how, years after their reunion, the children kept asking her to promise that she had won. will no longer disappear,” Gross said.

“It is absolutely excruciating for parents who do not know how long they will be separated from their child. Day in and day out, they can’t kiss their baby goodnight, they can’t help him with his homework, they just can’t take care of them.

“The detention of immigrants robs parents of their ability to protect their children, and this has a devastating effect on the mental health of children and parents.”

CBSA commissioned to keep the family unit

In accordance with international law, the Trudeau government passed a national directive in 2017 directing the CBSA to end juvenile detention and family separation “except in extremely limited circumstances.”

According to this directive, families must be released with or without conditions in order to keep the family unit.

Gross said it is impossible to know if the border agency is fulfilling its obligations if it does not collect data on children separated from either parent.

The office of Public Safety Secretary Marco Mendicino, which oversees the CBSA, did not say why it backed out of the commitment made under former Public Safety Secretary Bill Blair.

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