Canada: Immigration Detainee Sues Govt for Failing to Provide Humane Care

Prosper Niyonzima, a former immigration detainee, was jailed for nearly five years while border officials fought in court to have him deported. While being imprisoned he was held in solitary confinement for two years and given electric shock treatment. Niyonzima is suing the Canadian government for failing to heed doctors’ warnings of his mental illness and provide him with proper care.

Niyonzima’s family was slaughtered in the Rwandan genocide and he became a permanent resident of Canada in 1995 before criminal activity resulted in his immigrant status being revoked.

In 2012, he was placed in detention to await deportation. In a statement filed Friday with the Ontario Superior Court, Niyonzima said his incarceration, including more than 760 days in solitary confinement, led him to have a mental breakdown and become catatonic.

Niyonzima says when he was finally transferred to a secure treatment facility, he was forced to undergo electroconvulsive therapy, which was unsuccessful in addressing his condition.

“The plaintiff suffered pre-existing mental-health issues from childhood trauma following the Rwandan genocide in which his parents and three siblings were massacred. The plaintiff’s mental health issues were known to the defendant,” alleges Niyonzima’s $50 million lawsuit.

Immigration detainees are entitled to a detention review every 30 days before an immigration tribunal to decide if they should be released. Niyonzima’s lawyer, Subodh Bharati, said his client underwent almost 60 reviews but was never released.



Photo: “Canada – FED – Canada Immigration Officer” by Dave Conner is licensed under CC BY 2.0