Jamaican Alvin Brown finally deported but damages urged for his 5-year immigration detention

A mentally ill man finally deported to Jamaica on Wednesday deserves compensation because his five years in immigration detention was inhumane, illegal and violated his rights, his lawyer told an Ontario court.

Brown seeking $1,500 for every day spent as a detainee in Canada

Alvin Brown, a mentally-ill Jamaican man, was finally deported Wednesday but is seeking $1,500 a day for every day of his five years in Canadian immigration detention. (Shutterstock)

A mentally ill man finally deported to Jamaica on Wednesday deserves compensation because his five years in
immigration detention was inhumane, illegal and violated his rights, his lawyer told an Ontario court.

In seeking compensation for Alvin Brown, lawyer Jared Will accused Canada Border Services Agency of negligence in removing his client from Canada.

The upshot, Will said, was that the deportation took "exponentially longer" than should have been the case. 

"It should have taken no more than a year for the CBSA to have deported Mr. Brown," Will told Superior Court Justice Alfred O'Marra.

"It was cruel and unusual to detain Mr. Brown, who had mental health issues, for nearly five years."

Brown, 40, a father of six who suffers from schizophrenia, came to Canada as a child more than three decades ago.

The government stripped him of his permanent residency after a series of convictions, most of them drug and weapons related.

He was released from criminal custody in early 2011 but border agents detained him months later for violating release conditions.

However, Jamaica refused to issue travel documents and Brown remained in maximum-security detention branded a flight risk and a danger to the public.

'Treated like a criminal'

"After completing his sentence, he continued to be treated like a criminal," Will told the court. "Mr. Brown's charter rights were violated. He is entitled to a remedy." 

Brown is seeking damages of $1,500 for each day of his incarceration — if the court finds any of it to have been unlawful.

However, the federal government blames the lengthy imprisonment on Brown, saying he failed to co-operate in obtaining the needed paperwork. But Will countered that the evidence shows Brown did everything he could to get to Jamaica, and the border agency was responsible for the undue delay in deporting him. 

The agency twice gave the Jamaican consulate "false" information about Brown, refused to help him obtain a birth
certificate and other documents that would have speeded his removal, Will argued.

Brown, who began to believe he would never be released, was finally put on a plane Wednesday morning bound for Montego Bay, Will said.

Unusual court battle

"I'm glad not to see Mr. Brown here," O'Marra remarked on entering the courtroom."Mr. Brown is probably enjoying his view of the southern Appalachian Mountains," Will replied.

Brown's fight for release — and now for damages — has been the subject of an unusual court battle that has cast light on what critics say amounts to indefinite detention for foreigners caught in immigration limbo.

The current hearing was made possible by an Ontario Appeal Court ruling last year that provincial courts have jurisdiction to hear detention cases arising out of immigration law.

Such detentions are reviewed every 30 days but critics argue the hearings all too often amount to a rubber stamp, and many foreigners find themselves trapped — unable to be released and unable to be deported.

In an effort to force changes, Brown has also filed an application in Federal Court that seeks to argue a decision to keep him behind bars in January 2015 was unconstitutional.

The group, End Immigration Detention Network, is seeking to intervene in the judicial review, which is unlikely to be heard before March.