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21 April 2020 – Canada

While Canada took measures early on to shrink populations in its dedicated immigration detention centres, people still remain in detention and there are questions about the extent to which immigration detainees confined in prisons have been provided additional safeguards.

According to Solidarity Across Borders, as of 16 April the Laval Immigration Detention Center continued to hold 10 men and two women.

Other migrant detainees are reportedly still being held at Rivière-des-Prairies prison in Montreal.

A hunger strike at Laval ended on 31 March after eight days, following the release of two strikers, leaving some 20 detainees at the centre at that time. Reports indicated that although some guards wore masks, they continue to approach detainees without respecting the two-meter safety distance. On 7 April, the private security company Garda World confirmed that one of its security guards at Laval tested positive for COVID. Following this statement, the CBSA announced that there was “no risk to operations, as the individual had no contact with other employees during the time he was contagious.”

A hunger striker who had been released at the beginning of April spoke to the Quebec newspaper La Presse, saying that “even if measures were gradually added, for example by leaving unoccupied beds, the social distance of two meters is impossible to respect at all times. The detainees have felt fear and disappointment since the start of the crisis.”

COVID-19 outbreaks have been confirmed in several Canadian prisons, including the Joliette and Grand Valley women’s institution, the Port-Cartier institution, the Toronto South Detention Centre and the Beaver Creek Institution. This prompted Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, on 7 April, to ask the Parole Board of Canada and Correctional Service Canada to consider releasing non-violent prisoners.