Arrests, detentions and removals

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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 (for more, visit ENF 8 Deposits and Guarantees) 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 one of three CBSA immigration Holding Centres (IHC) in Canada (Laval, Quebec, Toronto, Ontario and Surrey, British Columbia). If an individual is detained in a region that does not have a CBSA IHC, they may be detained at a provincial correctional facility.

The National Immigration Detention Framework introduced investments to improve IHCs across Canada. These investments provide for modernized infrastructure, ensure national alignment to detention standards and conditions of detention, and ensure detainees have the proper access to services and supports while detained.

On , the CBSA opened a new IHC in Surrey British Columbia, replacing the former IHC at the Vancouver International Airport.

In regions where an IHC does not exist or where a risk assessment determines an individual cannot be effectively managed within an IHC, the CBSA works closely with provincial partners for the housing of immigration detainees in their facilities. Provincial correctional facilities are used to house:

  • high-risk detainees whose behaviour cannot be managed within an IHC (for example, those with a propensity towards violent or aggressive behaviour)
  • any detainee who is arrested and detained in an area not served by an immigration holding centre

The CBSA works closely with its provincial partners to minimize to comingling of immigration detainees with those being held for criminal purposes.

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


The CBSA works with the Canadian Red Cross to monitor conditions of detention and the treatment of immigration detainees in CBSA immigration holding centres and other detention facilities.

The Canadian Red Cross reports to the agency on its findings annually. The CBSA then outlines how it intends to address these findings.

In response to the 2018 to 2019 and 2019 to 2020 reports, the CBSA developed one management response and action plan. Many of the initiatives funded through the National Immigration Detention Framework address the Canadian Red Cross’s concerns.

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