#WelcomeToCanada: Act Now to stop the federal government from using prisons for immigration detention 

We need to act now to stop the federal government from doubling down on its harmful immigration detention system. Through the power of the #WelcomeToCanada campaign, all ten provinces are ending immigration detention in their jails!  

The fight is not over yet. Now, instead of following the provinces’ leadership, the federal government is planning to use its federal prisons for immigration detention. This practice violates international human rights standards!   

Please join us in calling on Prime Minister Trudeau, Minister LeBlanc, and Minister Miller to permanently end the use of jails and prisons for immigration detention, and to ultimately end immigration detention in Canada.  

Background Information

Since the launch of the #WelcomeToCanada campaign in 2021, every single province has committed to ending its immigration detention agreements or arrangements with the Canada Border Services Agency, which allowed people to be incarcerated in jails based solely on administrative (non-criminal) immigration grounds.  

Immigration detention has already ended in provincial jails in Nova Scotia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, British Columbia and New Brunswick. By March 31, 2025, immigration detention will no longer take place in any provincial jails! 

ProvinceExpiration of Immigration Detention Agreement or Arrangement
Nova ScotiaAugust 8, 2023
Alberta September 29, 2023 
Saskatchewan  September 30, 2023 
British Columbia October 31, 2023 
New Brunswick February 28, 2024 
Manitoba June 1, 2024 
Ontario June 15, 2024 
Quebec June 30, 2024 
Prince Edward Island September 18, 2024 
Newfoundland and Labrador March 31, 2025 

People across the country have helped to make these human rights victories possible through their tireless advocacy. But the fight is not over yet!  

The federal government is legally responsible for immigration detention. We are looking to the federal government to guarantee that it will never use jails or prisons for immigration detention, through either a policy directive or legislative change. We are also calling on the federal government to take meaningful steps to end immigration detention across the country, including by relying on rights-respecting, community-based alternatives to detention.  

Looking to do More?

Host a letter writing or social media posting event

After signing theonline e-action, you can organize a letter writing or social media posting event with your friends, family, and/or community or school group. You can use the template for the letter addressed to Prime Minister Trudeau and Ministers LeBlanc and Miller, and/or write to your MP to express your concerns and encourage them to take action. Even if you have written to government representatives before, keep the pressure up! By writing to them again, you are letting them know that this is still an issue you care about. Some main points to consider including: 

  • Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch published a joint report, (“I Didn’t Feel Like a Human in There”: Immigration Detention in Canada and its Impact on Mental Health), which documented serious human rights violations against people detained for immigration purposes, particularly racialized people and people with mental health conditions. People in immigration detention are held solely on administrative immigration grounds, but experience some of the most restrictive confinement conditions in Canada. 
  • Immigration detention has devastating and long-term impacts on people who are detained, as well as on their families and loved ones. People can be detained indefinitely, and many develop suicidal ideation as they lose hope, particularly those who fled persecution in search of safety and protection in Canada. When parents are incarcerated in immigration detention, they may be separated from their children, causing further trauma and harm. 
  • By March 31, 2025, all ten provinces will have ended immigration detention in provincial jails. We are looking to the federal government, which has the sole legal responsibility for immigration detention, to show leadership by: (1) Cancelling its plans to use federal prisons for immigration detention (2) Guaranteeing that prisons or jails will never be used for immigration detention through a policy directive or legislative change (3) Taking meaningful steps to end immigration detention across Canada, including by relying on rights-respecting, community-based alternatives to detention.

To help your government representative understand the devastating impacts of immigration detention, you can encourage them to hear directly from individuals who have experienced it via these short videos:  

Screen Shadows of the North at an event

The Experience

Shadows of the North is a reflection of experiences with immigration detention in Canada. Through the mechanics of generative art, the artists achieve an echoing of the discord between hopeful anticipation and lived experience. Shadows of the North explores many aspects of immigration detention, including provincial jails, solitary confinement, and indefinite detention. Commissioned by Amnesty International Canada (English Section), Supernova Arts Collective curated and directed the artistic content in consultation with researchers from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. 

Most of the testimonies, quotations and informational text in Shadows of the North are taken directly from Amnesty International Canada and Human Rights Watch’s joint report ‘I Didn’t Feel Like a Human in There: Immigration Detention in Canada and Its Impact on Mental Health’. 

For most of the testimony in Shadows of the North, voice actors substituted the voices of people who had experienced immigration detention. The voices try to honour the region of origin for each individual story. Human rights violations often happen at the margins of visibility, but, as writer and activist Rebecca Solnit wrote in her book Hope in the Dark, “…the power comes from the shadows and the margins… our hope is in the dark around the edges.” 

The Opportunity

These testimonies and stories, the injustices, and the hope must be passed along to other Canadians. Here are some ideas for how you can share Shadows of the North: 

  • Experience Shadows of the North with others at your local Amnesty meeting. 
  • Hold an event in your community, with friends, family or others. 
  • Share Shadows of the North in an educational setting if you are a teacher, student, librarian, or anyone in a role that involves learning. 
  • Send the Shadows of the North experience to your MP. Share your thoughts with them and ask them to respond. 
  • Send Shadows of the North to your favourite online media source. Ask them to distribute widely via their platform. 
  • Share widely on social media. 

Maybe you have other ideas. We would love to hear them, and would be thrilled to hear what action you decided to take. You can email afry@amnesty.ca if you have any comments or questions. You are also welcome to join the Amnesty Canada Immigration Detention Specialized Team. Contact: edumitru@amnesty.ca

IMPORTANT: When sharing Shadows of the North on social media please give credit to the artists as: Created by @supernova_art_collective.