Alberta’s government has provided written notice to the federal government that it is ending an agreement with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to use provincial correctional centres to house people being detained on immigration matters.

The change comes in response to concerns about using correctional facilities to hold people who haven’t been charged with a criminal offence, nor convicted of one.

“Immigration legislation is the federal government’s responsibility – and the care and custody of people detained on immigration matters should be as well. People who come to Canada for a fresh start and a new life deserve a better welcome than a jail cell while paperwork is sorted out. That is why we are also calling on all provinces to join us in ending this practice.”

Mike Ellis, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Services

The current agreement to house immigration detainees was signed in 2006. In September 2020, the provincial government notified the federal government of its intention to end the agreement on March 31, 2021, but subsequently agreed to further extensions in response to requests from the federal government.

On March 21, 2022, the provincial government granted a federal government request to extend the current agreement until March 31, 2023. Notice provided to federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino via letter on Dec. 22, 2022, gives the federal government an additional three months – until June 30, 2023 – to make alternate arrangements for CBSA detainees in provincial facilities.

Between April 1, 2022, and Oct. 31, 2022, the number of immigration detainees in provincial facilities has averaged 15 people a day. The daily average in 2021-22 was 22 people; in 2020-21, the daily average was 17.