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Borders Kill, CBSA Negligence Kills: Statement of Rage and Collective Mourning of the Death at the Laval Immigration Detention Center [Montreal, Quebec]

Laval. Montreal. Quebec. Last Sunday, January 30th, we were enraged and deeply saddened to learn of yet another death at the Laval immigration detention center.

Originally published by Solidarity Across Borders.

We do not have any information about the person who lost their life while in custody of the Canadian Border Services Agency. All we know is that they were a migrant detained for administrative purposes: ie. for not having papers. This person should never have been detained in the first place, and now they are gone. No one should ever be detained.

It’s a shocking death that comes on the heels of another tragedy at the border: last week, a family froze to death while attempting to cross in Manitoba. Borders kill. CBSA negligence kills.

This most recent death is not the first to occur in the detention centers managed by CBSA and their affiliate companies (The Canadian Corps of Commissionaires, GardaWorld) contracted to provide private “security.” Over the past twenty years, more than fifteen people have had their lives stolen in CBSA custody, some by suicide and others by physical restraint and atrocious neglect. CBSA lets those in its custody die by refusing to provide attention, medical or otherwise. These deaths are entirely preventable. This most recent loss adds to the growing list of those who have lost their lives to CBSA over the past twenty years:

Bolante Idowu Alo
Abdurahman Ibrahim Hassan
Fransisco Javier Roméro Astorga
Melkioro Gahung
Jan Szamko
Lucia Vega Jimenez
Joseph Fernandes
Kevon O’Brien Phillip
Unidentified man
Shawn Dwight Cole
Unidentified man
Joseph Dunn
Unidentified person
Sheik Kudrath
Prince Maxamillion Akamai

It is only in the past few years that CBSA has been required to publicly announce each death that occurs in its custody. The circumstances of these deaths remain opaque as CBSA invokes the “right to privacy” to avoid disclosing its abusive practices. As usual, a police force will head the investigation because there is no independent entity that monitors CBSA. As usual, police will investigate the work of other police and meanwhile, the detention center remains impenetrable, hidden from the public who already know so little about the neglect, abuse and lack of care taking place inside. The courageousness of the detainees who held hunger strikes in 2020 and 2021 has shed light on the worsening conditions in Laval since the start of the pandemic.

The construction of a new prison in Laval in 2018 and the rise in funding to allegedly “humanize” the immigration detention system changes nothing. The fact that there are trees in the visitor parking lot, a basketball court and a playground in the fenced yard (concealed from view) change absolutely nothing: these places are prisons for migrants, for families and children. Detention is not an exceptional measure, but rather a fundamental part of the repressive matrix that is the Canadian immigration system. It serves to facilitate deportation, and to punish migrants for leaving situations of poverty, violence and exploitation, which Canada is often involved in creating.

The consequences of these repressive immigration policies are numerous and lethal. No one should be forced to live on the margins, isolated and in fear of arrest and imprisonment. The practice of detention promotes nothing but exploitation by confining the most vulnerable people to an underground economy characterized by abusive and unsafe working conditions.

Enough is enough! The violence must end! Not one more death!

We call for open borders and the free movement of people seeking justice and dignity, meaning freedom to move, freedom to return, and the freedom to stay.

Stop the detentions, stop the deportations! We need a comprehensive, ongoing regularization program! No to prisons, status for all!!


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