Arrests, detentions and removals

National Immigration Detention Framework

The National Immigration Detention Framework outlines the CBSA's approach to making the Canadian immigration detention system better and fairer.

Reasons for detention

The Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations set out factors to consider when determining whether to detain an individual, including:

  • Does the person have criminal convictions, such as those involving sexual offences, violence, weapons or drug trafficking?
  • Has the person previously complied or not complied with any requirement under any act or regulations?
  • Does the person have ties to the community?
  • Is the person willing to cooperate with the Government of Canada to establish his or her identity?
  • Does the person have links to organized crime or organized human smuggling or trafficking?
  • Is the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness of the opinion that the person is a danger to the public or a danger to the security of Canada?

Detention reviews

A CBSA officer must review the reasons for detention within 48 hours. Officers may decide to release the individual with or without conditions depending on the circumstances.

The Immigration Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) reviews reasons for detention after an individual is detained for more than 48 hours. The IRB reviews the case and decides if the individual should remain in detention, or be released with or without conditions. The IRB reviews the case within seven days and again every 30 days.

Detention reviews before the IRB Immigration Division are generally open to the public. This is not the case if reviews concern refugee protection claimants or if the IRB determines that any of the following applies:

  • Danger to a person's life;
  • Fairness of the detention review could be jeopardized; or
  • Information involving national security might be disclosed.

Release from detention

Individuals may be released from detention with or without conditions. Some of the conditions may include the following, amongst others as needed:

  • Deposit – Money provided by a guarantor (a Canadian citizen or permanent resident) to make sure the individual respects the conditions of release. If conditions of release are met, the money is typically returned within six to eight weeks after the immigration proceedings.
  • Guarantee – The guarantor promises to pay a sum of money if the conditions of release are not met.

Key detention principles and the rights of detained individuals

All individuals are detained according to international best practices as well as the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Key principles involve respecting the health, well-being and safety of all people held for immigration purposes. Detained individuals have several rights, including the right to:

  • Be informed about the reason(s) for their detention and have access to a CBSA officer;
  • Be informed about the right to be represented by and to meet with a lawyer in person or by phone as required;
  • Be put in contact with a representative of their country's embassy or consulate and non-government organizations;
  • Be assisted by an interpreter if the individual does not understand or speak the language in which immigration proceedings are being conducted (English or French);
  • Receive medical attention; and
  • Practice religion.

Facilities used for immigration detention

The CBSA is responsible for managing the immigration detention process. Following an arrest, an individual may be detained at a CBSA immigration holding centre (IHC) in Laval, Quebec, Toronto, Ontario or Vancouver, British Columbia. In regions that do not have a CBSA IHC, individuals may be detained at a provincial correctional facility. The CBSA IHC Vancouver, British Colombia is only available for detentions of less than 48 hours, at which point individuals will be transferred to a provincial facility, as necessary.

The National Immigration Detention Framework includes funding to improve immigration holding centres in Quebec, British Columbia and Toronto.

The CBSA relies on provincial correctional facilities to detain:

  • Higher-risk detainees (for example, those with a violent criminal background);
  • Lower-risk detainees in areas not served by an immigration holding centre; and
  • Those detained for more than 48 hours in the Vancouver area.

The CBSA works closely with its provincial correctional partners to minimize interaction, to the fullest extent possible, between immigration and criminal detainees.

Special considerations for vulnerable people


As per the National Directive for the Detention or Housing of Minors from CBSA, minors are not to be detained except in exceptional circumstances. Officers must consider the best interests of the child and alternatives to detention. The National Immigration Detention Framework outlines how minors are accommodated in the immigration detention system.


Where safety or security is not an issue, detention is to be avoided or considered only as a last resort for pregnant women or nursing mothers, persons who are suffering from a severe medical condition or disability, persons suffering from restricted mobility, persons with a suspected or known mental illness, and victims of human trafficking.

When detention is required, it should be for the shortest time possible.

Individuals with mental health issues may be detained in a provincial detention facility that provides access to specialized care.

Detention statistics

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