Children can be detained in Canada, with 151 cases recorded in fiscal year 2017/2018. Children can be “housed” in detention with their parents, or separated from their detained parents, while children who arrive in Canada without a guardian are rarely detained.
In recent years, Canada has introduced a series of positive policy developments in the area of immigration detention through the 2016 National Immigration Detention Framework and its accompanying directives. While this policy aims to limit child detention and family separation “as much as humanly possible,” the government has yet to commit to ending these practices.
Canada has improved its commitment to transparency and open dialogue through a series of public consultations, as well as by releasing comprehensive statistics on immigration detention, disaggregated by region, age, gender, length of detention, and ground for detention. The National Directive for the Detention or Housing of Minors, issued and implemented in November 2017, has also had an immense impact on child detention. The fourth quarter of 2017/2018 saw 12 children housed or detained – a 68% drop from the previous quarter, where 38 children were housed or detained. The average length of detention has also been decreasing. Canada is also retrofitting or replacing detention facilities to ensure family unity. While child detention is always a violation of children’s rights, family unity is an important aspect of the best interests of the child. Finally, regulatory amendments are currently underway to incorporate these recent policy developments.
Canada continues its immigration detention reform, with important improvements for children expected to be forthcoming in oversight, best interest determinations, and expanding alternatives to detention. We look forward to these improvements being reflected in future scorecards once they have been implemented.