New Report Calls for Alternatives to Detention in Canada

June 2015  – Researchers made a strong call to develop and implement alternatives to detention in Canada, as part of the recommendations that were published in a recent study sharing the experiences of asylum-seeking children in detention.

The report, Asylum-seeking children experiences of detention in Canada: A qualitative study presents findings  from interviews with children and families who have sought asylum in Canada but are being held in immigration detention. The study cites estimates of approximately 650 children detained in Canada each year and asserts that:

Detention is “a frightening experience of deprivation that leaves children feeling criminalized and helpless”  (p. 1).



Researchers interviewed 20 families who shared stories of how they had fled persecution and violence only to end up in detention, some for almost a year. The study documents family separation caused by detention, the lack of acceptable education for detained children, and the negative effects detention has on children’s emotional well-being.

Children refused to eat, became depressed or nervous, saying detention made them feel like a “caged animal” (10-year-old girl). Even upon release, these effects persisted, as an 11-year-old explained, “I am afraid of being separated from my parents and going back to jail.”

This study provides additional evidence of the need to end immigration detention of children, as researchers conclude that:

“Children should not be held in immigration detention and should be protected from family separations precipitated by detention” (p. 13)


Read the related news article: What are babies doing behind bars in Canada?

Read the full report:

R. Kronick, C. Rousseau & J. Cleveland. Asylum-seeking children experiences of detention in Canada: A qualitative studyAmerican Journal of Orthopsychiatry. 05/2015; 85(3):287-294.