Protesters attempted to deliver a petition to the Ontario government Monday, demanding an inquest into the death of a Somali immigrant.
Abdurahman Ibrahim Hassan died on June 11, after three years in the custody of the Canadian Border Services Agency.
He had moved to Canada in 1993 with his family but never became a Canadian citizen, due in part to mental health issues.
In 2012, he was convicted of assault and sentenced to four months behind bars. He was then transferred to CBSA custody and held in a maximum security prison in Ontario, where he remained for three years until his death.
“We’re here today to demand justice and honour for all the people that have been targeted, criminalized, brutalized and killed by the immigration systems,” Tings Chak, a member of the End Immigration Detention Network, said at Monday’s protest.
According to a recent study from the University of Toronto, more than 7,300 migrants were detained in 2013. Roughly 30 per cent are being held in prisons instead of dedicated immigration holding centres.
The average national release rate is 15 per cent and detainees in Ontario have the worst chance at getting out, at nine per cent.
“Many of these people are people who have simply committed immigration infractions, they do not deserve to be detained in a facility with hardened criminals,” said immigration lawyer Chantal Desloges.
Hassan died at a hospital in Peterborough, Ont. The CBSA initially refused to identify Hassan, saying only that an “adult male detainee” receiving care had “passed away.”
Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit said Hassan had become “agitated” and died after being restrained by police and medical personnel.
By the time of his death, Hassan had been jailed for more than three years.
Unlike many Western countries, Canada does not have a limit on how long an immigrant can be detained.
The United Nations has demanded Canada adopt a 90-day limit seen in many other countries.
Amnesty International has also criticized the indefinite detention limit, calling it “disturbing and alarming.”
With a report from CTV’s Peter Akman and files from The Canadian Press