Migrant Detention, a “Sad Nightmare”

May 10, 2013
Interview with a refugee mother on her experience in detention at Laval

This interview was done in December 2012 by Aaron Lakoff, with a migrant woman in the Solidarity Across Borders network. The woman (who wishes to remain anonymous) came to Montreal in 2006, and her refugee claim was refused. She was threatened with a deportation in 2009, but instead she decided to resist her deportation and live underground. In the summer of 2009, she was arrested at her apartment by CBSA agents, and detained for several days at the immigration detention centre in Laval. She was detained with her 6-year old son, and she was pregnant with her next child at the time.


Solidarity Across Borders helped her get out of detention, and has supported her since. Finally, her permanent residence was granted under a Humanitarian and Compassionate (H&C) claim, and she now has the right to stay in Canada with her family (she has 3 kids now).


Q: Can you share your experience of being locked up at Laval in 2009 with us?


A: Yes, I was at the Laval detention centre for 4 or 5 days. In fact, I was 5 months pregnant, and my 6-year old son was with me. I lived through a sad nightmare and a horrible experience while I was there. People in that detention centre are assimilated with criminals. The security guards are omnipresent. There are surveillance cameras everywhere. They search you every time you move from one area to another. Even when you are in the washroom, there is a security guard who is waiting for you by the door. There is also a systematic confiscation of personal items.


There are certain women who are separated from their kids. This was not the case for me. I was able to keep my son with me. He threw a huge tantrum over there, and the guards had to intervene because they couldn’t tolerate it anymore. I think it is important to improve the system instead of uselessly locking up asylum seekers. In my opinion, this makes no sense. It doesn’t set a very good image for Canada, which is supposed to be a welcoming country.


I would also go so far as to say that the way the employees and the guards over there have a discretionary power is very abusive. There were some who threatened me if I were to try to avoid my deportation again. I would also say that it played a lot on my mental health, and it affected me psychologically and physically.


Q: Can you share your experience of the day you were arrested?


A: I would say that the day I was arrested, the security agents knew that they were coming to arrest a woman and a small boy. But when they came, there were at least 5 big guys – really big men – and one woman. They knew I am a woman, they didn’t need to come with 3 vehicles and 5 men as if they were coming to catch a criminal. They also knocked down my door while I was in my home, and they surrounded my whole apartment as if they were looking for a drug dealer or a criminal. It was really traumatic. And then it felt like I was in boiling water. I almost lost my mind. Every minute I had no idea what was happening. I was only scared.

Q: Were you handcuffed?


A: The agent said he wanted to handcuff me, but because of the presence of my son, he didn’t want to traumatize him any more. But if it weren’t for that, he said he wanted to handcuff me. And then he also verbally threatened me by saying that I had worsened my situation because I had refused to cooperate.



Q: Now it is 3 years later, and your immigration status has been regularized. What are your reflections when you think back to this experience?


A: It definitely left a mark. It left a page of history and lots of memories that we can’t forget. It also marked my son, who since then has continued to yell from time to time « Mom! Immigration is knocking at the door! »


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