It was supposed to be a safe, affordable home for Ontarians with nowhere else to go. But inside, it was horrifying to see the images on the television screen of women tied up, with their arms and legs spread as if they were being violated.
At its peak, there were nearly 5,000 people in one detention centre. They could hear, when they wanted to, the sounds of people screaming. There was no privacy. A few hours of the women’s cries were ignored.
Many were found guilty of breaking the conditions, which essentially meant that they were guilty of breaking other people’s laws.
The two-week-old government bill introduced to amend the Criminal Code, which is expected to be passed in the next few days, does not directly change criminal law, but it does give officials broad powers to turn prisons into immigration detention centres and house people whom the Immigration Ministry would otherwise be able to deport.
“The new bill is really very disappointing — not in the way it will be applied (by the government), but in the way it is written, and in the way they are going about it,” said Stephen Harper’s former principal private secretary Robert Wiebe in an interview with the Star. “This is about giving a very broad power to the minister in the government to bypass the court system, and to do things to people that they might not do in the court system because of the risk of losing that case.”
Wiebe said he met with a committee of the House of Commons to explain the bill’s changes to the Criminal Code.
“I asked the MPs about the way the bill was being implemented. They expressed concern that the minister would not be able to exercise the powers that he has under this bill.”
Wiebe said he asked the committee to ask the minister why the minister planned to use the bill, then introduced by his predecessor Paul Martin, to bypass the courts and take people to Immigration and Refugee Board hearings.
“I said, ‘The minister says he wants to take people to Immigration and Refugee Board hearings. Why, in your mind, would he do that?’ He said, ‘Well, I think it is in the interests of public safety. I have a responsibility to protect Canadians.’ I had the opportunity to challenge his statement,