Oct 21, 2014 0
Lucia Vega Jimenez was found hanging from a shower stall inside the YVR underground immigration detention centre operated by a private security firm on December 20, 2013. A coroner’s inquest was launched in an effort to prevent similar deaths from occurring. Video showing Jimenez entering bathroom can be found here.
Jimenez was a Mexican national, and was allegedly stopped by transit police, who suspected she was in Canada illegally, and was subsequently delivered to the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA). Jimenez was held in a facility staffed by Genesis Security, which provides private security contract positions to the three immigration-holding centers run by the CBSA. Genesis Security won the Top Choice Award for Top Security Guard Services in Vancouver of 2014. Current and former Genesis Security guards testified at the inquest that they often had to pay for their own training, and only received a pamphlet in lieu of suicide prevention training.
The inquest also heard that Genesis frequently understaffed security guards at the CBSA site, and that the records of mandatory checks on detainees were falsified. On the day of Jimenez’s death, the female guard required for checks on the female detainees was offsite, and ex-Genesis guard Jivan Sandhu failed to check on Jimenez for over 40 minutes after she entered the showers. Sandhu agreed with the statement by BCCLA lawyer Jason Gratl that Genesis had “too many jobs and not enough bodies”
The jury at the inquest was allowed to make recommendations to prevent similar deaths, but was not tasked with finding any individual liable. The jury made a series of recommendations, including:
- That legal counsel and NGOs be allowed access to the YVR Holding Centre immediately, and that the facility be closed as it failed to meet international human rights standards.
- That the CBSA reassess their use of restraints, handcuffing and shackling to only those situations where they required absolutely.
- That immigration holding facilities be operated by government employees and not private security companies.
The BCCLA issued a statement reacting to the inquest in which it reiterated the failures on the part of the private security firm in handling immigration detainees, and emphasized the detention “is the job of the government, and then only in the rarest circumstances in which detention is absolutely necessary”
A confidential Red Cross report made to the CBSA was released under an Access to Information request, as reported in Macleans. The report revealed that in 2012, an estimated 3,952 immigration detainees were held in correctional institutions alongside criminal populations. The report also stated that this practice can be “extremely stressful… This is a particular concern for refugee claimants who have experienced armed conflict, torture, and other traumatic experiences”.
An Access to Information request made by the Globe and Mail revealed an internal CBSA memo that stated “current legislative agenda concerning immigration matters and the potential for an increase in the daily detained population”. Changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act have made it easier to detain newcomers.
The CBSA issued a statement following the inquest that it would be carefully reviewing all findings and recommendations.