COVID-related health concerns directly impacts incarcerated refugees in Canada

In Canada, government measures implemented to control the outbreak of COVID-19 directly impacts incarcerated individuals granted refugee status. The federal courts are currently witnessing an increase in cases directly dealing with COVID-related health concerns accompanying the removal of refugees from Canada. Mr. Keir is a citizen of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) and came to Canada when he was 9 years old.[1] He has never returned to SVG and has no family ties or support system there.[2] When Mr. Keir was 11 years old, he was granted refugee status in Canada based on his fear of being physically harmed by his stepfather.[3]

Berlin-Hohenschoenhausen Memorial

When Mr. Keir was 18 years old, he was convicted of three counts of robbery, found to be involved in organized crime based on his connection to a local gang and was convicted of several additional offences.[4] During trial, he was deemed “dangerous to the public” and there was “minimal evidence of rehabilitation or prospect of rehabilitation.”[5] After completing his most recent term of imprisonment, Mr. Keir was transferred to immigration detention to await his removal from Canada.[6] Mr. Keir raised the issue that his removal from Canada was exacerbated by the current pandemic. The federal courts were tasked with balancing COVID-related health concerns with Mr. Keir’s designation as “a danger to the public” seeking to avoid removal from Canada. Mr. Keir requested the federal courts recognize the “very real risk of irreparable harm” posed by COVID-19.[7] However, the courts were not convinced by existing evidence that Mr. Keir was at a heightened risk for contracting COVID-19. Currently, Mr. Keir is a 28 year-old male with no underlying health conditions or complicating risk factors.[8] As a result, the federal courts dismissed Mr. Keir’s concerns about the risks he may face from the virus, and on the balance of probabilities, determined that Mr. Keir would not suffer irreparable harm if he is deported to SVG.[9] Ultimately, the federal courts concluded that Mr. Keir’s removal from Canada outweighed his COVID-related health concerns.

Scales of Justice and Judge`s gavel

[1] Keir v Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2020 FC 387.

[2] Ibid at 1.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid at 2.

[5] Ibid at 3.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid at 18.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid at 19.


This blog post was written by a CCLA-PBSC Rights Watch Student. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the view of the CCLA or PBSC.