The Supreme Court of Canada is seen in Ottawa on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Supreme Court hears case on migrant detainees’ rights to challenge incarceration

Currently, migrants who do not hold Canadian citizenship can only challenge detention through an immigration tribunal or a judicial review.

A man from Pakistan wants Canadian law to give migrants being held in detention the ability to challenge their imprisonment in front of a judge.

The Supreme Court of Canada heard arguments Wednesday on a case asking for immigration detainees to be given access to “habeas corpus”— a legal provision allowing anyone being held in custody the right to challenge their detention before a judge.

Currently, migrants who do not hold Canadian citizenship can only challenge detention through an immigration tribunal or a judicial review.

The case was brought by Tusif Ur Rehman Chhina, a Pakistani man who sought refugee protection in Canada in 2006, but was later detained after authorities learned he had a criminal record.

The Immigration and Review Board held 12 reviews of his detention and each time ordered that he remain incarcerated. He has since been deported back to Pakistan, but his lawyers have continued to pursue the case.

A long list of interveners have also signed on, including Amnesty International, the Canadian Council for Refugees, the Canadian and B.C. Civil Liberties Associations, the Canadian Prison Law Association and Community and Legal Aid Services Programme.

They argue migrant detainees do not always receive a fair hearing by these methods, and sometimes end up incarcerated indefinitely.

“The onus is on the detainee to actually prove why they should be released,” said Swathi Sekhar of End Immigration Detention Network, another intervener in the case.

“On the other hand, in a habeus corpus application, the government is forced to justify legally and substantively why that person is in prison. This is a really critical difference for anyone who is trying to challenge their detention.”

The federal government argues that the current system involves “a complete, comprehensive and expert process” with an independent quasi-judicial board that provides “prompt, regular and meaningful review of detention, based on clearly articulated grounds.”

Extending habeas corpus to migrant detainees would create uncertainty in the legal processes involving these decisions, the government argues in its factum.

A small group of advocates turned up on the steps of the Supreme Court building in Ottawa on Wednesday, braving sub-zero temperatures to express their concerns about how the current system treats migrant detainees.

“The global context for migration is changing and Canada is a safe haven for a lot of people who are fleeing the terrible things that are happening in their countries and people are going to be detained,” Sekhar said.

“Its important that we don’t let the government just do that arbitrarily, that we put in a safeguard that isn’t present in the system right now.”

Brandishing signs with slogans like, “Build communities not cages,” others expressed their fundamental disagreement over the very practice of incarcerating migrants.

“I think it’s absolutely deplorable, I don’t think anybody should be detained,” said Andrew Peters of No One is Illegal Toronto.

“We should have status for all — anybody in this country.”

The court will deliver its decision at a later date.

Related: U.S. border separations ripple through midterm campaigns

Related: Canada to increase annual immigration admissions to 350,000 by 2021

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Oil tanker ban to be reviewed by committee

Indigenous groups for and against Bill C-48 travel to Ottawa to influence the Senate’s decision

Tyler Dozzi breaks national record, ‘running like a madman’

Terrace runner sets new time in Boston in his last U20 race

Most intervenor requests in crucial natural gas pipeline case rejected

At stake is whether gas pipeline to LNG Canada plant should fall under federal jurisdiction

VIDEO: RCMP stop traffic with candy canes to remind drivers not to drink and drive

Police want to prevent any bad choices from being made this holiday season

Grim situation in coming year for northwest, B.C. fisheries

Annual post-season review in Prince Rupert informs DFO on how to manage 2019 fishing season

VIDEO: Dog behaviourist holds classes to raise funds for NARA

Holidays are a busy time for rescue agencies

Warning issued as forecast calls for 20-foot waves in Tofino

Dangerous waves, strong currents and upper-shoreline flooding expected for Tofino-Ucluelet area

An 800-pound pig named Theodore needs a forever home, B.C. society says

‘Theodore is not destined to be somebody’s bacon’

2,000 Canadians died of an overdose in first 6 months of the year

New data from the Public Health Agency of Canada shows the crisis is not subsiding

Teenager Alphonso Davies wins Canadian Men’s Soccer Player for the Year Award

Derek Cornelius and Chilliwack native, Jordyn Huitema were named Canadian Youth International Players of the Year

B.C. teen MMA fighter shows heart

Young Unity MMA competitors bring home Ws

Another B.C. city votes to ban single-use plastic bags

First six months of proposed ban would focus on education, not enforcement

UK Prime Minister Theresa May wins party no-confidence vote, but troubles remain

May won the vote of 317 Conservative legislators with a 200-117 tally

B.C. trustee’s anti-LGBTQ comments got him barred from schools

Barry Neufeld calls vote to leave him off liaison list ‘workplace discrimination’

Most Read