Canadian border agents have had enough of “high-risk” migrants — moving forward, they will house those most dangerous to society in an immigration detention centre upon construction.
According to the Canada Border Security Agency (CBSA), plans to convert a wing of its detention centre are underway, as provincial prisons will no longer be home to them starting in November.
CBSA director-general, Carl Desmarais, told the National Post they would soon undergo renovations at its facility in Laval to install 48 beds for “high risk” migrants.
An exact timeline for the completion of those renovations at the detention centre is not yet known, but Desmarais contends they will “pivot rapidly.”
While the taxpayer bill is also not yet known, the director-general confirmed it would come from an already existing budget.
Upon completion, the agency will make similar renovations to detention centres in Toronto and Surrey.
According to the CBSA website, detainees with a “high risk” designation pose a viable threat to the public if released — even too great for agency officials to contain without proper infrastructure.
In 2022, they received a one-year sunset clause to make other arrangements for “high risk” detainees in provincial prisons. That has since been extended an additional three months in Alberta and B.C., but elsewhere it expires next month.
As of August 25, CBSA is holding 169 inmates across the three CBSA immigration centres for low-medium risk offenders. According to Desmarais, provincial prisons in Alberta and B.C. are holding 61 “high risk” offenders.
Those 61 offenders, depending on their immigration files, are subject to either a release from custody, deportation order or relocation to the Laval facility by the end of October.
While Desmarais believes the wing will suffice in handling the current number of “high-risk” offenders, he does worry about how they will manage if half a million new immigrants come to Canada in 2025.
“I think there is an expectation that as immigration continues and population grows, there is a proportional increase in the need for immigration detention; it’s just simple math. I think eventually, we’ll have to look at our overall capacity,” he said.
According to the agency, more than half of foreigners ordered out of the country remain in Canada, new figures show.
“Everyone ordered removed from Canada is entitled to due process before the law,” the Agency wrote in an Inquiry Of Ministry tabled by Conservative Immigration critic Tom Kmiec in the Commons.
In the Inquiry, Kmiec asked, “How many individuals were sent deportation letters by the government? And how many currently remain in Canada?”
CBSA has since pledged to bolster deportation efforts as 8,723 of the 13,605 foreigners who received a deportation order since 2016 remain in Canada, reported Blacklock’s Reporter.
“Once all legal avenues have been exhausted, foreign nationals are processed for removal,” said the Inquiry.
A CBSA memo, President Transition 2022, has since pledged additional enforcement of deportation orders, which prioritize cases involving “national security, organized crime, human rights violations and criminality.”
“This priority also includes failed irregular migrant asylum seekers that entered between Canada’s ports of entry,” it said.
According to Blacklock’s Reporter, CBSA ordered 2,002 foreigners to leave Canada in 2022. While 373 left voluntarily and another 386 left courtesy of border agents, a whopping 1,057 (53%) remained in Canada.
A 2021 report by Auditor General Karen Hogan criticized the $34 million enforcement program as “haphazard,” estimating that CBSA lost track of thousands of deportees including 2,800 with criminal records.
“Criminal cases are very important for public safety,” Hogan earlier testified at the Commons public accounts committee. “Overall we found the Agency’s approach to managing removal cases had not resulted in the timely removal of inadmissible foreign nationals.”
According to the audit, at least 70% of criminal cases are not reviewed annually and lapse, said the report Immigration Removals. “Periods of inactivity in the cases we examined averaged four years,” wrote analysts.
Resulting from the report, the public safety committee asked CBSA to submit 90-day updates on deportations.
“The Agency did not remove the majority of foreign nationals who were subject to enforceable removal orders as soon as possible to protect the integrity of the immigration system and maintain public safety,” wrote MPs.