Ralph Goodale 'concerned' about 2 immigration detainee deaths in Ontario

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says he is "concerned" about the deaths of two immigration detainees in Ontario prisons in less than a week, according to a statement from his office.

2 immigration detainees found dead in separate Ontario prisons in less than a week

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says the federal government is looking at how best to provide the CBSA with "appropriate review mechanisms." (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says he is "concerned" about the deaths of two immigration detainees in Ontario prisons in less than a week, according to a statement from his office.

One detainee died in the Toronto East Detention Centre on March 7, while the other died at the Maplehurst Correctional Complex in Milton, Ont., on March 13. Both were men.

The first was found unconscious and not breathing in his cell, while the other was found in his cell without vital signs. Police have said neither death is suspicious.

"The government is examining how best to provide the Canada Border Services Agency with appropriate review mechanisms," the statement reads.

Goodale's statement also said the CBSA is mandated to only use detention when necessary, and to safeguard the health and well-being of those held in custody.

A person can be detained if a CBSA officer believes the person:

  • Is inadmissible under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
  • Poses a danger to the public.
  • Is unlikely to appear for an examination, an admissibility hearing, or a removal from Canada. 
  • Cannot prove his or her identity to the officer's satisfaction.

The CBSA relies on provincial correctional facilities to hold higher-risk detainees. Immigration law allows for the arrest and detention of foreign nationals without a warrant.

CBSA won't comment on deaths

The CBSA has refused to reveal the names, ages and nationalities of the men and will not comment on the circumstances surrounding their deaths — though Halton police said the man who died at Maplehurst is 39-year-old Francisco Javier Romero Astorga. 

Goodale said in the statement that his thoughts are with the families of the detainees but he is unable to comment on the cases while they are under investigation.

Antonella DiGirolamo, a spokesperson for the CBSA in the Greater Toronto Area, said the Maplehurst Correctional Complex informed the agency about the detainee death on Sunday.

"An investigation is underway by various responsible agencies," she said. "The CBSA will co-operate fully."

In a news release, the agency said: "The CBSA will be reviewing the circumstances of the death. The CBSA is not in a position to release further information while the investigation is ongoing."

The CBSA said the detainee's family has been notified.

Halton, Toronto police probe deaths

On Sunday at 7:30 a.m., Halton Regional Police received a call about the detainee death at Maplehurst Correctional Complex.

"Nothing suspicious at this time," Sgt. Andy Dennis of Halton Regional Police said of the death.

He said a post-mortem was done and toxicology samples will be tested further.

On Monday, March 7 at 11:47 a.m, Toronto police say they received a call about the detainee death at the Toronto East Detention Centre.

Const. Caroline de Kloet of the Toronto Police Service said the investigation revealed that the death is not suspicious. She declined to release the man's name or age.​

No One Is Illegal, a grassroots migrant justice organization, has organized an emergency vigil this evening at the CBSA offices in Toronto to mark the two immigration detainee deaths.


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