CMA Advocates for Refugee Protection from Detention
Amnesty International Canada welcomes the efforts of the Canadian Medical Association to protect migrants and refugees, including children, within our borders. The CMA will discuss refugee protection when it meets for its annual meeting in Quebec City August 19-23.
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) has supported the motion to advocate that “concrete legislative change be made to protect migrants and refugees from being arbitrarily and indefinitely detained in jails and jail-like facilities in Canada”. The CMA has a longstanding mandate to advocate for health-related human rights issues.
Dr. Shobana Ananth, volunteer Health Network Coordinator, Amnesty International Canada, made the motion stating “As health professionals, we know that detention impacts the mental health of both children and adults resulting in suicidal ideation, anxiety, depression, PTSD, and in children, the deterioration of developmental milestones.”
Since 2012, nearly 40,000 individuals have been detained in jails and jail-like facilities across Canada for immigration purposes - including hundreds of children. There has been harsh criticism by the UN and civil society organizations regarding Canada’s immigration detention regime. Migrants are forced to endure harsh conditions, family separation, and indefinite confinement. This type of arbitrary detention violates the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (supported by a CMA motion in 2015) and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Since 2000, there have been 15 deaths in immigration detention, including at least 3 suicides. Two reports by the International Human Rights Program, University of Toronto, Faculty of Law, We Have No Rights and No Life for a Child provide an overview of the scope of immigration detention in Canada which affects thousands every year – including those with mental health issues, torture victims, pregnant women, and children.
In July 2015, the UN Human Rights Committee called on Canada to ensure that immigration detention is used as a measure of last resort; that Canada set a reasonable time limit for detention; and provide meaningful alternatives to detention. Other countries such as Belgium and Sweden have provided alternatives to detention and the separation of families and children. The right to be free from arbitrary detention is embedded in international human rights law. Human rights must be of paramount importance and the detention of refugees and migrants in Canada must not be arbitrary or indefinite. The CMA as an organization is known for its medical advocacy, support of health-related human rights issues, and in protecting all migrants and refugees including children within our borders.
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