On April 19th, solidarity caravans drove to prisons and migrant detention centres across the country as part of a day of action against imprisonment. The caravans made noise and held signs in solidarity with those locked up. This mobilization brought together former detainees, prison abolitionists, and migrant justice activists in a first united call, across so-called Canada, to demand the immediate release of all prisoners and status for all migrants in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
We’ve included links to footage and report-backs from the different caravans below. You can also listen to a special live radio broadcast with dispatches from the caravans here. For more footage or reports from the caravans, just search #FreeThemAllCaravan on twitter.
Social distancing is impossible inside prisons and detention centres and those inside remain at high risk of contracting COVID-19. There are now over 260 confirmed cases of COVID-19 linked to Canadian carceral institutions around the country, where people are held on both criminal and migrant holds. There have also been cases confirmed in both Laval and Toronto migrant detention centres. On April 16th, the Correctional Service of Canada confirmed that an inmate at BC’s Mission Institution prison had died due to COVID-19, with over 50 other inmates testing positive for the virus.
From March 24th to April 1st, detainees at the Laval migrant prison held an eight-day hunger strike to demand their immediate liberation and decent, safe housing upon release. While many hunger-strikers have since been released, 11 people remain in detention.
Despite the mounting calls from dozens of organizations for Canada to release migrant detainees and prisoners, the Canadian government still refuses to free all prisoners. The CBSA for its part has been slowly releasing migrant detainees on a case-by-case basis through individual detention review hearings.
Released migrants often remain under threat of deportation and face precarity, with no housing, long processing times for work permits, and limited or delayed access to support programs.