The reintroduction of Bill C-4 (formerly Bill C-49), the Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada’s Immigration System Act, in June 2011 was met with intense public debate, Parliamentary questions, street protests, and media reports. The eventual compromise Bill (C-31, The Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act) was passed into law in June 2012 after months of seesawing on the shape of its provisions. Amongst the contentious issues is the newly legislated mandatory detention or incarceration of select groups of immigrants and refugees over 16 years of age for 12-month periods of time. Detention often leads to mental and physical decline in detainees, skyrocketing financial costs, and deterioration in legal access, accountability, and judicial oversight. It also raises fundamental questions about the primacy of rights to liberty, equality, and freedom in Canada. Further, there is virtually no evidentiary proof that the threat of detention deters people from migrating without visas. Yet, while unheralded in Canada, mandatory detention is increasingly commonplace around the world as countries grapple with increased irregular migration and broadening security concerns. This conversation is intended to delve into all sides of the debate on the use of immigration detention in Canada, and to contextualize the policy and practice in its global setting, including the Australian, US, and UK contexts.
Stephanie J. Silverman is the post-doctoral fellow at the Nathanson Centre on Transnational Human Rights, Crime and Security at Osgoode Hall Law School and a research fellow at the Refugee Research Network in the Centre for Refugee Studies, York University. She completed her DPhil at St Antony’s College, Oxford, where she was also a graduate associate at the ESRC Centre on Migration, Policy and Society. Her doctoral research was fully funded by a Commonwealth Fellowship as well as grants from the University of Oxford. Her DPhil thesis examines the histories, laws, politics, and ethics of implementing immigration detention policies in liberal, democratic countries. Her research into the normative ethics of immigration detention has been published in a series of working papers and policy reports as well as in Politics and Policy (2012), Population, Space and Place (2012), and Forced Migration Review (2013).