Lack of space may force CBSA to release detainees in Canada immigration crackdown

Canada immigration: CBSA may need to release detainees due to lack of space

“Canada Border Security Agency Faces Capacity Crisis: High-Risk Detainees Struggle for Space

With the looming transfer of high-risk detainees from provincial jails to Canada Border Security Agency (CBSA) detention centres in June, the agency is facing a capacity crisis. The delays in retrofitting detention centres and training staff have put the agency in a difficult position, where it may have to release foreign nationals deemed a flight risk or a threat to public safety.

Capacity Gap in Detention Centers

The warning came in an internal memo from the National Detention Contingency Task Force on March 20, highlighting the challenges faced by the CBSA in expanding its immigration holding centres. The termination of contracts and delays in infrastructure improvements have created a capacity gap that compromises public safety and program integrity.

Transferring Detainees

In June, Quebec and Ontario will join seven other provinces in stopping the housing of high-risk detainees facing deportation. Newfoundland and Labrador have also announced their intention to terminate their agreement with CBSA next year. To mitigate this crisis, the task force plans to evaluate each detainee case and release only those posing the highest public safety risk.

Security Concerns

Mark Weber, president of the Customs and Immigration Union, has raised concerns about the security infrastructure at CBSA detention centres. The facilities lack individual lockable cells, which raises questions about the safety of detainees and staff. Alberta’s decision to stop taking immigration detainees in 2020 should have served as a warning sign for the federal government.

Public Safety Risks

The leaked memo reveals a pressing need for additional capacity to house high-risk individuals by fall 2024, which raises questions about the government’s preparedness for the impending crisis. Releasing lower-risk individuals to make space for high-risk detainees could pose a serious public safety risk, according to Weber.

Compelling Questions

Veteran immigration lawyer Warren Creates highlights the potential risks of releasing convicted migrants to accommodate high-risk individuals. The integrity of the system is at stake, and accountability from government officials is paramount. The recent federal budget allocation of $325 million for CBSA detention facilities shows a step in the right direction, but more measures need to be implemented quickly.


As Canada Border Security Agency grapples with a capacity crisis, the need for swift and effective solutions is more critical than ever. Balancing public safety, program integrity, and the rights of detainees requires a comprehensive and proactive approach. The government must address these challenges head-on to restore trust and confidence in the immigration enforcement system.”



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