Immigration expert wants CBSA to scrap private guard contracts

Published in 24 Hours Vancouver | February 26, 2014 | Circulation: 280,000+


Canada Border Services Agency is now reviewing its use of private contractors for guarding detainees following the in-custody death of a Mexican woman, 24 hours has learned.

An immigration expert, however, thinks the agency should just scrap contracting out altogether.

Lucia Vega Jimenez was found hanging in a shower stall at CBSA’s Vancouver airport detention facility on Dec. 20 and died eight days later. Guarding and transporting detainees at the short-term holding centre is contracted out to private firm Genesis Security Group.

Read more of my reporting on CBSA:

“When it comes down to security-focused jobs — where you have a private contractor at times responsible for the safety and security of those in detention — I have a real problem with that,” said Kelly Sundberg, associate professor of Justice Studies at Mount Royal University, and an immigration officer for 14 years.

“I hope, on the issue of private contractors, it causes the federal government to take great pause and to seriously consider if that’s what Canadians want.”

24 hours has learned CBSA is reviewing internal detention operations.

“Contractor services is one element of that review,” agency spokeswoman Faith St. John said in an email. “However as this review is ongoing, and as a coroners inquest has been called, it would be inappropriate to comment further.”

On Tuesday, the B.C. Coroners Service announced a public inquest into the death starting Sept. 27.

Sundberg hopes the inquest will push the government to get rid of contracting out of private security services.

“I also hope it does bring about the formation of some oversight body that is arms length from the CBSA,” he said.

Email and phone interview requests with Genesis Security Group’s CEO Camil Dubuc were not returned by press time. The firm’s website lists a job opening for “Detainee Transport Security Officer … working directly with border services.”

The job requires an Advanced Security Training course and First Aid Level 1, “to ensure detainees are safe and remain in the custody of the CBSA,” and “to transport detainees to various locations and use all necessary handcuffing techniques as appropriate.”

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