Get legal representation
If you are detained, ask to speak to a legal representative. How easily you can get one depends on where you are in Canada. In some areas:
- Duty counsel (a lawyer or a paralegal) can give free legal representation for your hearings.
- You may get a legal representative through a provincial legal aid program if you qualify.
- If there is no legal aid, you can hire a private lawyer or immigration consultant. You can also choose to have an unpaid representative such as a family member, or none at all.
Get legal aid
You may have trouble getting legal help while detained:
- If you do not speak English or French, there may not be interpreters to help you get legal aid services.
- If you are in a provincial jail, you may not get a free phone call to legal aid.
It can be difficult to talk to people who are outside your centre or jail.
In the centres, you cannot use the internet or your own cell phone unless CBSA gives you permission. You can make free calls within Canada. You may need a prepaid international calling card to call another country. CBSA officers may let you make a video call.
Inside provincial jails, you may have trouble using a phone depending on which one you are in.
You can ask to speak to a CBSA officer for more information about the steps ahead. Your legal representative can also give you important information.
There are Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) who support detained people. They may be able to visit you and give you information about your situation. Ask if you can speak to an NGO.
You may be able to have visits from friends, family members, or others. Visiting hours and conditions will vary.
You may not be allowed to have visitors if you are being confined for some reason, such as public health.
The centres and jails are staffed by security guards who enforce the rules and watch over you.
Being detained can be a very difficult experience. It will seem like a prison and you will not have basic freedoms. Handcuffs, shackles, and other restraints may be used when you are outside the facility.
If you are in Canada with your children, they may be held in a centre with you. If you are separated from your children or other family members, tell your legal representative and get help from an NGO.
Make a complaint
If you have a complaint about your treatment, you can complain to CBSA. Any discussions you have may come up again at your hearings. It is important to get legal advice or get information from an NGO.
While you are detained, you have the right to:
- Be told why you are detained.
- Have access to a CBSA officer.
- Hire a legal representative to act for you.
- Get legal aid if you qualify. You will be told about the legal aid services available to you. You may also get a friend or a member of an organization to represent you without a fee.
- Contact your country’s embassy or consulate. If you are making a refugee claim, you should not do this without first getting legal advice. You can ask that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Canada be contacted.
- Contact NGOs who may support you.
- Get an interpreter if you do not understand or speak English or French.
- Get medical attention.
- Practice your religion.