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15 June 2020 – Canada

Corridor Inside a Quebec Prison, (Matthew Ansley, Unsplash,
Corridor Inside a Quebec Prison, (Matthew Ansley, Unsplash, "« Les prisons n’étaient pas prêtes » : la COVID-19 inquiète le milieu carcéral," Radio Canada, 6 May 2020,

Since a peak on 3 May, the number of COVID-19 confirmed cases has significantly declined in Canada in the past month. The province of Quebec has been the most affected during the pandemic, with almost half of the total number of cases. Two COVID-19 related deaths have been recorded in a provincial and a federal prison in Montreal.

In a webinar organized by the UNHCR on 29 May, the agency’s Head of Office in Canada, Denise Otis, stated that three detainees remained in the CBSA Laval Centre located in the province of Quebec. She said that the temporary U.S.-Canadian border closure (21 March – 21 April) had had an important impact on the number of asylum seekers entering the country. While there were 63,830 asylum applications in 2019, there were 12,380 between January and March 2020.

With COVID-19 measures, individuals entering Canada from the U.S. were temporarily sent back to the U.S. While being subject to a Removal Order usually means that individuals cannot file a refugee claim, Canada has announced that asylum seekers who received a Removal Order during the pandemic will be allowed to resubmit a refugee claim once the situation is restored. The details of this policy and its implementation had not yet been announced at the time of this writing.

On 6 May, the first COVID-19 related death was recorded in a federal prison in Canada. The prisoner reportedly received medical treatment in a hospital, where he contracted the virus. He was not placed in isolation when he returned to the Laval prison, leading to the spreading of the virus.

When a 72-years-old prisoner from a provincial prison, Montreal’s Bordeaux jail, died of COVID-19 later in May, the Ligue des droits et libertés called out the government, stating that “the only solution to counter the spread and avoid a humanitarian catastrophe in prisons is to reduce the prison population.” At the beginning of May, only 44 of the 960 inmates had been tested for COVID-19 at the Bordeaux prison. Individuals from Solidarity Across Borders protested in front of the centre on 17 May, to denounce the living conditions of detainees, as well as the use of electronic tracking devices on released migrants.

On 23 May and 6 June, demonstrations took place downtown Montreal to ask for the permanent residence for all asylum seekers working as health care providers.