PRESS RELEASE: Border Services Death in Custody – Organizations Demand Accountability
Human rights organizations concerned about refugees are shocked to learn of the death of, Lucia Vega Jiménez, a Mexican woman held in custody by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) at the Vancouver International Airport last month. Information about this tragic death has only recently been made public after a news agency first broke the story this week. There has been no public explanation from the CBSA for what happened, whether anything could have been done to prevent the death and what steps are being taken now to determine whether there was any failing on the part of CBSA officials who were responsible for her care while she was in custody. This tragic case underlines the fact that there is absolutely no independent oversight of CBSA to whom the family can seek recourse.
The organizations below call on the BC Coroners Service to hold an inquest in the death of Ms. Vega Jiménez. We also call on the Government of Canada to immediately appoint an independent public inquiry into the death of Ms. Vega Jiménez with a view to determining whether it could have been prevented, whether any officials failed in their obligations, why CBSA did not immediately publicly disclose the death in their custody, what measures need to be taken to ensure that another tragedy does not occur and what form of public independent oversight over the CBSA ought to be introduced to ensure that the CBSA is held accountable for all of its actions Canada-wide. This case once again highlights the lack of any oversight over the actions of CBSA officials, an organization that has been given broad powers of arrest and detention by Parliament. The death of a person in custody is always a tragedy. The fact that the death was not disclosed for over one month heightens our concern. The Canadian public has the right to know what happened, why, if any officials failed in their responsibilities and what measures the government will introduce to rectify the lack of oversight over CBSA.
Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers (CARL)
Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR)
British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA)
Lorne Waldman, President of Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers (CARL), 416-254-4590
Janet Dench, Executive Director, Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR), 514-277-7223 ext. 2
Josh Paterson, Executive Director, BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA), 604-630-9752