Canada: Immigration detainees take Habeas challenge to Supreme Court

OTTAWA – On Wednesday, the Supreme Court of Canada will hear a precedent-setting case concerning the use of habeas corpus to release immigration detainees. Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, et al., v. Tusif Ur Rehman Chhina is the most significant legal step concerning the rights of immigration detainees in Canada since the End Immigration Detention Network’s (EIDN) historic constitutional challenge to indefinite detention in May 2017.

The case will decide whether immigration detainees should have access to the protection of habeas corpus, a recourse in law through which a person can challenge an unlawful detention or imprisonment in the superior court. Since 2015, immigration detainees may use this recourse instead of the usual method of challenging detention by way of a detention review, and then a review in the Federal Court, procedures which can months to years.

EIDN, along with several other community groups, is calling a rally on Parliament Hill on Wednesday. Former immigration detainees from across Ontario are expected to attend.

WHO: Lawyers for the End Immigration Detention Network, former immigration detainees, End Immigration Detention Network, Ottawa Sanctuary City Network, the Criminalization and Punishment Education Project, and No One Is Illegal – Toronto

WHAT: Public rally and press conference. Organizers will also pack the courts for the hearing at the Supreme Court of Canada, beginning at 9 am.

When: November 14, 2018 at 8:00 am

Where: Supreme Court of Canada – 301 Wellington Street, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0J1

The system of detention review places the onus on the person detained to prove that there are “clear and compelling reasons” not to continue to detain them. Typically, after six months their chance of release drops below 1%. Canada is one of the few western countries in the world without a time limit on immigration detentions.

EIDN has demanded legislative reform for almost five years, since immigration detainees went on an historic hunger strike in September, 2013. Several immigration detainees have used the habeas corpus to secure their release, including Kashif Ali, who spent seven years imprisoned before the Ontario Superior Court ordered his release, calling his lengthy detention “unacceptable”.