Security agency 'jeopardizes' migrant monitoring center
Ottawa has been forced to urgently review the contract awarded to a private firm to oversee the only migrant detention center in Quebec after a series of boondoggles.
There are three immigration holding centers in Canada, including one in Laval.
Lack of equipment, agents, training: The list of complaints against the private agency Neptune Security regarding its mandate at the Immigration Monitoring Center (CSI) in Laval is long, according to various sources and documents obtained by Radio -Canada.
These breaches were so significant that they could have jeopardized the health and safety of migrants, according to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).< /p>
Neptune Security had obtained, last summer, a major contract to manage the security of this detention site. This deal, worth $49 million, was to last nearly three years.
But just months into this new deal, the federal government decided to change provider.
The Laval Immigration Holding Center is surrounded by fences and barbed wire. Guards are responsible for monitoring this site.
The Neptune Security agency, which defines itself on its website as security experts, was responsible for monitoring the detained migrants in Quebec's only CSI, since July 1, 2022.
It boasts, on its website, of being a Canadian company run by Canadians which has never lost a single customer due to a breach of its obligations.
According to the documents related to the call for tenders published by Ottawa, this firm was to provide custody and surveillance of persons […], as well as their luggage and personal effects, and ensure their safety.
The mission of this agency was also to transport detained persons or to confirm the departure from Canada of detained persons subject to a removal order, according to these same documents.
The company had to provide suitable vehicles for these tasks and the employees affected had to be adequately trained, it is specified.
Canada has three Immigration Holding Centers (ISC): in Laval (Quebec), Toronto (Ontario) and Surrey (British Columbia). There are several grounds for border officials to detain, including when the identity of the migrants is not proven, when they believe the person poses a danger to the public or will not appear for a hearing or enforcement of a removal order, or if they suspect she is inadmissible.
Soon after this contract began, trouble arose at the Laval CSI.
Regularly, border agents from the CBSA have had to intervene, particularly in the transport of detained persons, in place of private security guards. This information was confirmed to Radio-Canada by Ottawa.
“The transportation of detainees did require the involvement of CBSA officers in the fall of 2022.”
— Jacqueline Roby, CBSA Spokesperson
These worries were not limited to the end of last year. In an email sent in January by the management of the Laval CSI, which Radio-Canada was able to consult, the establishment claims to need armed officers to perform various tasks.
URGENT, is it even indicated in the subject of this message intended for CBSA officers.
Due to the chronic lack of guards, the needs are diverse (surveillance of detainees, distribution of meals, transportation, hospital supervision, etc.). The needs we could have are on all shifts, it is written.
A director goes even further and expresses her serious concerns.
< blockquote class="sc-1push81-0 hyWXkl blockquote is-long-quote">
“The situation at the CSI has just taken a turn where the lack of guards jeopardizes the health and safety of the site and prevents us from providing basic service.
— Excerpt from an internal CBSA management email
This unpredictable situation, as the author of this email points out, has finally come to an end by a change of service contract which took effect last month.
According to the Customs and Immigration Union, there is a shortage of 3000 border agents across the country.
In addition to the Laval CSI contract, Neptune Security has recently signed other immigration-related agreements. Like Garda and the Canadian Corps of Commissionaires, this firm is one of the private agencies that have concluded agreements with Ottawa in recent months to monitor hotels where asylum seekers arriving via Roxham Road are staying. [Immigration Canada] is closely monitoring the efficiency and quality of service and can confirm that security services are being provided accordingly, says a spokeswoman for the federal Department of Immigration.
< p class="e-p">Contacted by Radio-Canada, Neptune Security declined to comment. There are strict confidentiality agreements, we were simply told.
For its part, the CBSA evokes a mutual agreement which made it possible to terminate this contract . This was to run until March 31, 2025, with several extension options.
An emergency provisional contract of $15 million was finally awarded to the firm GardaWorld , by Ottawa, to ensure continuous and uninterrupted service coverage.
The situation has since returned to normal, says CBSA spokesperson Jacqueline Roby, adding that a new long-term competitive procurement process is underway.
In the eyes of the Customs and Immigration Union, the government's decision to award contracts to private agencies whose primary goal is profit, to carry out detention-related tasks, including transportation detainees, is absolutely irresponsible.
“As can be seen in this case, the staff of these private agencies often lack the equipment and training needed to perform delicate tasks.
— Mark Weber, President of the Customs and Immigration Union
The detention of these migrants should not be taken lightly, says union president Mark Weber.
If the government really took health and safety issues affecting this sector seriously, it would stop awarding subcontracts to the lowest bidder, he laments.
In the end, the union maintains, a large amount of overtime must finally be paid to border agents. Which is not sustainable in the long term, he says.