Original Works

Unshackled Discretion – Barriers to Procedural Justice in the Canadian Immigration Detention System
Detention and Asylum Research Cluster Working Paper No. 1
By Stephanie J. Silverman and Petra Molnar
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The growing Canadian immigration detention system spanning immigration holding centres, provincial prisons, short-term holding facilities, and a variety of other sites, touches upon the lives of thousands of people daily. This report examines a number of significant barriers to procedural justice for immigrants and asylum seekers detained in Canada. The report finds that the structure and realization of the Canadian detention system impede fair, unprejudiced, and non-arbitrary treatment for minorities and vulnerable people. Above and beyond the basic deprivation of liberty and setback to immigrants and asylum seekers’ interests, detention inflicts irreparable psychological, physical, and social damage. The report outlines significant issues such as deteriorating daily detention conditions, far-flung facilities locations, unfair discretionary decisionmaking, a lack of options for women, children, and vulnerable people, the compounding reasons for indefinite detention, inadequate legal aid and access to counsel, and additional barriers to justice. It concludes by discussing how the Canadian system is costly and ineffective, and often in contravention of national and international standards on immigration detention.

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