Cover story published in 24 Hours Vancouver | January 28, 2014 | Circulation: 280,000+
The sister of a Lucia Vega Jimenez, a Mexican woman who died in Canada Border Services Agency custody Dec. 28, alleged she signed a confidentiality agreement with authorities, according to the priest who visited the unconscious woman before she was taken off life support.
Rev. Eduardo Quintero, of Vancouver’s Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church, administered last rites to Jimenez in Mount Saint Joseph Hospital, and also confirmed two other sources’ reports the 42-year-old committed suicide in detention.
“She was unconscious when I visited her in the hospital,” Quintero told 24 hours. “She was brought to the airport, then at a certain point she hung herself.”
According to Quintero, Jimenez’s sister Martha told him of an alleged non-disclosure agreement with authorities, but gave few details. He reported Jimenez was a hotel worker initially arrested over an unpaid bus fare, before she was taken into CBSA custody at the airport.
CBSA declined to comment about the alleged document, but said Richmond RCMP investigators concluded Jimenez’s death was “not criminal” in nature. The allegations could not be independently verified by 24 hours.
“The health and safety of those in our care is of paramount concern,” CBSA spokeswoman Amitha Carnadin wrote in an email. “We take this responsibility very seriously and it is important to determine the circumstances surrounding any loss of life.”
The Mexican journalist who originally revealed the death to 24 hours last week, said she was told about the alleged secrecy agreement when she contacted the woman’s relatives in Mexico.
“She attempted to take her life because she was in despair at her deportation order,” said Karla Lottini, who lives in Surrey after fleeing threats in Mexico two years ago. “After the suicide, Lucia’s sister was here, but she didn’t want to comment to respect a confidentiality agreement with authorities.
“I don’t see any reason for them to say she had to sign a confidentiality agreement.”
The cause of death is still under investigation by the BC Coroners Service. But others in the Lower Mainland’s Latin American community continue to raise questions about what some are calling a “suspicious” death, and advocates want more oversight of immigration detentions.
Quintero said he sees growing desperation amongst many people facing deportation, and that “policies have pushed people to the point of doing unthinkable things.”
Civil liberties group wants independent oversight
The BC Civil Liberties Association is calling for independent oversight in the wake of Lucia Vega Jimenez’s death.
“When deaths happen in the custody of law enforcement, we need to have an independent, civilian investigation of what happened in order for the public to have confidence,” said executive director Josh Paterson.
It is believed Jimenez committed suicide while in Canada Border Services Agency custody. Several immigration applicants have committed suicide after being denied their claims by Canada.
In 2010, former Eritrean soldier Habtom Kibraeb, 40, killed himself in Halifax after losing his appeal for asylum. Two years later, Iranian refugee claimant Hossein Blujani, 31, committed suicide in Vancouver after being denied status. Last October, police ruled the shooting deaths of Iranian immigrants Mohamed, Shyroz and Qyzra Walji in London, Ont. a “murder-suicide.”