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Alberta ending agreement to hold people detained on immigration matters

EDMONTON — The Alberta government is ending an agreement to hold federal immigration detainees in provincial jails.

Written notice has been given to the federal government that Alberta is ending an agreement with Canada Border Services Agency to use provincial correctional centres to house people being detained on immigration matters.

The federal government has until the end of June to come up with alternative arrangements.

Between April 1, 2022, and Oct. 31, 2022, the number of immigration detainees in provincial facilities averaged 15 people a day, the province said in a statement Wednesday. The daily average between 2021 and 2022 was 22 people, while in the daily average between 2020 and 2021 was 17. 

Mike Ellis, Alberta’s minister of public safety and emergency services, said the change is in response to concerns about using correctional facilities to hold people who haven’t been charged with a criminal offence or convicted of one. 

“Immigration legislation is the federal government’s responsibility — and the care and custody of people detained on immigration matters should be as well,” Ellis said in the province’s statement Wednesday. 

“People who come to Canada for a fresh start and a new life deserve a better welcome than a jail cell while paperwork is sorted out. That is why we are also calling on all provinces to join us in ending this practice.”

The current agreement with CBSA was signed in 2006. Alberta initially notified Ottawa of its intention to end the deal in 2020, but subsequently agreed to extend the agreement until the end of March of this year.

Notice was provided to federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino just before Christmas, giving the government an additional three months to June 30 to make alternate arrangements, the province said. 

CBSA didn’t immediately provide a response to the Alberta government’s move.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2023.

The Canadian Press

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