Windsor

Immigrants often victimized in detention centres, says MPP

Criticisms of jail time for people awaiting a deportation decision come as Jonathan Nicola sits in the South West Detention Centre while the legal system decides whether he can stay in Canada.
Lisa Gretzky, the MPP for Windsor West and and the former corrections critic for the NDP, says people facing immigration issues should not be detained in jails. (Lisa Gretzky)

People arrested for immigration issues should not be detained in regular correctional centres where they are often victimized because of their race, says Windsor West MPP Lisa Gretzky.

The criticisms come as Jonathan Nicola sits in the South West Detention Centre while the legal system decides whether he can stay in Canada.

He is the South Sudanese man accused of posing as a high school basketball player. Nicola is being kept with the general inmate population in the Windsor jail.

Gretzky, the former corrections critic for the provincial NDP, says many people in similar situations as Nicola stay in the detention centre far too long as they await a decision on their future. 

She says they get caught up in a hierarchy and are often victimized because of where they are from. She also says many of the immigrants don't even know they've committed a crime.

"They're traumatized for life simply because, in some cases, they've come here not knowing what the rules are ... and they don't know the rules have been broken," she told CBC News. "Unfortunately that person has been traumatized for life over something that may not have been in their control."

Gretzky says a separate facility may not be the answer, but says there should be a different section within the jail where people facing immigration charges are held.

"Sometimes they remain in that facility after a decision is made sitting [and] waiting to be deported," she said. "When a decision has already been made and the decision is to be deported then that should happen in a timely manner."

Howard Sapers, the correctional investigator of Canada, said in Europe, immigration detainees are not supposed to be held alongside offenders who have been convicted of criminal offences.

"That's typically what has happened in most jurisdictions, you don't mix those populations," he told CBC Radio's Windsor Morning in an interview.

Sapers noted his office does not provide oversight for immigration detainees and his mandate does not extend to those individuals.

With files from the CBC's Peter Duck and CBC Radio's Windsor Morning

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