Since day one of the B.C. Coroner's inquest into the death of Lucía Vega Jiménez, Tyee reporter David Ball spoke with participants with deep concerns about the use of contracted security guards in Canadian Border Services Agency detainment facilities. We learned the inquest would hear testimony from Jivan Sandhu, the private guard who found the undocumented Mexican woman hanging in a shower stall on Dec. 20, and the Transit Police officer who testified Vega Jiménez's accent led him to contact border services.
As the inquest unfolded, Ball reported on gaps in mental health assessment and treatment. A Spanish-speaking nurse flagged Vega Jiménez's scars and fear of violence if she returned home. The nurse scheduled a follow-up to address these mental health concerns, but the appointment was cancelled due to a clerical mistake.
Yesterday The Tyee ran a story highlighting inadequate training for non-CBSA guards, understaffing at holding centres, and high turnover among workers. The inquest found Sandhu falsified documents, reporting room checks when none were completed. The only suicide prevention training was a printed package that guards could not remove from the facility. "Unless the CBSA is directly responsible and directly staffing the detention facilities, then the safety and well-being of the immigrant detainees may be adversely impacted," a lawyer representing CBSA officers told The Tyee.
When the verdict came through yesterday evening, the inquest jury echoed many of the inadequacies reported here. While the recommendations cannot lay blame, the jury’s findings read as scathing criticism of detention conditions. Most notably, the inquest recommends holding centres should be staffed solely by CBSA officers, legal counsel and NGO support should be available to detainees, and guards should take courses on treating detainees with respect.
Here is the jury's recommendations for all holding centres:
And these were the jury's recommendations for the Vancouver airport holding centre "at a minimum":
CBSA responded to the recommendations late yesterday evening. "The CBSA has taken this incident very seriously and immediately conducted a review of its internal detention operations at the Vancouver facility," reads the statement. The document goes on to say border services have reviewed the existing contract with private security, has updated standing orders, increased oversight and monitoring procedures and enhanced suicide and self-injury prevention training.
You can find more of David Ball's reporting on immigration enforcement and the Sanctuary City movement calling for reforms here.
Read more: Rights + Justice