In a statement released on World Refugee Day, the Canadian Bar Association voiced its support for the American Bar Association’s own statement opposing current detention practices in the United States. Those practices are seeing children being separated from their parents and held in detention facilities. In the face of this unacceptable treatment of refugee families, the CBA has urged all governments to respect their international obligations under the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The CBA’s vocalization against immigration detention of children is not new. It 2017, the CBA drafted a submission on the New National Immigration Detention Framework, calling on the Canadian government to create viable alternatives to holding children in detention, whether or not those children are accompanied by their parents.
Subsequently, the Canadian government issued a direction to the Canadian Border Services Agency in June 2017 that focused on the best interests of the child in the context of Canada’s refugee determination system.
In light of the recent events south of the border, those recommendations ought to be revisited:
- Clarify that the best interests of the child is a primary consideration in any decision on detention that affects a child, regardless of the child’s status.
- Consider providing legal representation to minors, in addition to assigning a designated representative to an unaccompanied or separated minor.
- Refrain from separating children from their family members while in holding facilities. Where detention of families cannot be avoided, family units should be made available.
- Make available adequate recreational activities for children, in addition to seeing to schooling needs and providing options for off-site programming.
- Make available appropriate medical and mental health services to minors.
- Facilitate regular contact between children and detained parents if children are placed in alternative care arrangements.
The CBA’s statement can be found here.