Access to legal representation
Access to legal representation varies depending on where you are detained. In some regions:
- A duty counsel program exists. Duty counsel are lawyers/paralegals who provide free legal representation for detention review hearings
- Access to a legal representative may be provided through a provincial legal aid program, depending on eligibility criteria.
- There is no legal aid provided. Some people hire a private lawyer or immigration consultant, appoint an unpaid representative such as a family member, or have no representative.
If you are detained, ask if you can speak to a legal representative.
Challenges accessing legal representation or other services
There are general challenges that you may experience when accessing legal representation when in detention. These include:
- If you do not speak English or French, there are often no interpreters available to support you while accessing legal aid services from detention
- Legal aid’s number that is provided by CBSA can go either to the general office number and/or directly to a legal representative on duty. If there is no interpreter available, this will pose a challenge
- If you are detained in a provincial jail, you may not be granted a free phone call to legal aid.
Access to communication
It is difficult to communicate with the outside when you are in detention. Access to communication depends on the location of detention.
You will not have access to the internet or your cell phone, unless given special permission by CBSA. In Immigration Holding Centres it is possible to make free calls within Canada. A prepaid international calling card may be required to call another country. In some cases, CBSA officers may provide access to a phone or video call, at their discretion.
Access to telephones inside provincial jails varies depending on the facility.
Access to information
If you need more information about immigration procedures, you can ask to speak to a CBSA officer. Your legal representative can provide you with important information.
There are Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) who provide free support to people in immigration detention and who may be able to visit you. NGOs can provide you with information about detention, the refugee claim process, and other important information.
If you are detained, ask if you can speak to an NGO representative.
You may be able to receive visits from friends, family members or other visitors. Visiting hours and conditions are different depending on where you are detained.
If you are confined for public health or other reasons, you may not be allowed to receive visitors.
Detention centres and jails are staffed by security guards who enforce the rules and carry out surveillance.
Being in immigration detention can be a very difficult experience, without basic freedoms and confined to a prison or prison-like environment. Handcuffs and sometimes other restraints are used in the transportation to and from the detention facility, with exceptions for some vulnerable people.
If you are in Canada with your children, it is possible that they will be in detention with you in an Immigration Holding Centre. If you are separated from your children or other family members, it is important to discuss with your legal representative and to seek help from an NGO.
Making a complaint
If you have a complaint about your treatment, you may complain to CBSA. Complaints are handled internally by CBSA. Communications with CBSA can be used in detention review hearings. It is important to seek legal advice or seek information from NGOs.
You have rights in detention, these include the right to:
- Be informed about the reason(s) for your detention and have access to a CBSA officer
- Be represented by a legal representative at your expense or to receive legal aid, if you qualify. You will be given information about the legal aid services available to you. You may also designate a friend or a member of an organization or association to represent you without a fee
- Contact a representative of your country’s embassy or consulate. If you do not want a consular representative to be contacted because you are seeking protection in Canada, you can ask that the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Canada be informed of your detention
- Contact NGOs who may support you
- Be assisted by an interpreter if you do not understand or speak the language in which immigration proceedings are being conducted (English or French)
- Receive medical attention
- Practice your religion.