A coroner's inquest jury is recommending a dedicated holding centre for immigrants and the creation of a civilian agency to investigate critical incidents that occur in Canada Border Services Agency custody.
The jury made its recommendations Tuesday night after spending most of the day weighing evidence and testimony at the conclusion of an inquest into the hanging death of Lucia Vega Jimenez.
Jimenez, a Mexican woman, facing deportation was found hanging in a CBSA shower stall last December. She died in hospital days after being removed from the CBSA holding cell at Vancouver's airport.
Following an inquest into her death, a coroner's jury sitting in Burnaby is recommending a new immigration holding centre be built, staffed by CBSA staff, not contract employees, and located within a 30-minute drive of Vancouver's airport.
It says washrooms should have "self-harm proofing" and call buttons in each sleeping room and washroom.
The jury also recommends detainees have access to legal counsel, medical services, support organizations, family visits and be allowed to wear civilian clothing. It asks they be allowed outdoor access and says the holding centre should have monitored Internet with telephones, and an on-site courtroom.
In the meantime, while the immigration holding cells at the Vancouver airport are staffed by sub-contractors, the jury says the CBSA should use the video monitoring system to ensure contract commitments are being met.
Inquest jury recommendations to the CBSA
The jury recommends the CBSA provide the following to detainees:
- an orientation kit in the right language
- instructions on how to access a lawyer
- contact for a Detention Liason Officer (DLO)
- international calling card and instructions how to use it
A pre-removal risk assessment should be completed within 24 hours and CBSA staff should have training in:
- suicide prevention
- mental health
- respect for detainees
It also recommends the CBSA reassess its use of restraints and only use handcuffs or shackles as a last resort.
Inquest jury recommendations for Ottawa
- enact legislation to empower the CBSA to extend the pre-removal risk assessment deadline (PRRA)
- provide PRRA in languages other than English and French
- appoint an independent ombudsman to mediate complaints