Does Canada separate migrant families or detain children?
Published Wednesday, June 20, 2018 8:04PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, June 20, 2018 8:17PM EDT
U.S. President Donald Trump has rescinded a policy that separated migrant children from their parents and placed them in detention centres, but the outcry over the situation has prompted many Canadians to ask about their own country’s detention practices.
Hanna Gros, a senior fellow with the University of Toronto’s International Human Rights Program, helped author a 2017 study of Canada’s child detainment.
She says Canada does not separate migrant families en masse in detention. However, there are still cases of child detainment, which can cause depression, anxiety and selective mutism.
Gros spoke to CTV News Channel’s Merella Fernandez on Wednesday, and explained that although the numbers of migrant children in detention are declining, she’s believes it is “always a violation of their human rights.”
Here’s a transcript:
What are our practices here in this country?
First of all, I think it’s important to highlight that while the U.S. is a natural comparison point, this is not like anything we see in Canada. We don’t detain children en masse and we don’t have family separation en masse.
But that doesn’t mean that there are no human rights violations being committed in the context of Canadian immigration detention.
Children end up in detention in one of two ways. They’re either under formal detention orders, in cases where they’re found to be either a danger to the public, a flight risk or (have) an unclear identity. Otherwise they can end up housed in detention in order to accompany their detained parents.
The international community has been clear on the fact that children should not be in detention. It is always a violation of their human rights.
The other side is separating them from their family, which could be detrimental as well?
Absolutely. And there is a right to family unity in international law as well. So we’re advocating for twinned principals of no child detention and no family separation.
That would mean, of course, that people crossing the border and bringing children would automatically be released and never be detained and that might give people a motive to bring children across the border?
I think that it’s clear that people don’t seek asylum for fun. People are seeking asylum and coming over our borders because they need to. They’re fleeing persecution. This is not a field trip. People need to leave where they’re living.
Do we know how long families are detained?
There’s actually been a great deal of improvement in the lengths of detention with respect to children. We’ve seen reduced numbers both in the number of children detained and the lengths of time they’re detained recently.
Any idea how long that is?
It really depends on the case. On average, it could be a week. It could be two weeks. It depends on the case. It depends on the region as well.
I would say that one to two weeks is not ... a long time? What did it used to be?
The mental health evidence is clear that even brief periods of detention or family separation can have lasting and huge consequences for children’s health and well-being. We’ve seen children deteriorate even after being detained for 48 hours.