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“Treated like an animal” in prison while awaiting deportation from Canada

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An immigrant stayed a year and a half in Her Majesty's Penitentiary, a provincial prison in St. John's, Newfoundland, while awaiting removal to the Democratic Republic of Congo. (File photo)

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In Newfoundland, a man remained at Her Majesty's Penitentiary in Saint John about a year and a half later having served his sentence, while waiting for federal authorities to handle his immigration case.

In this dilapidated prison where conditions of detention are said to be appalling – rodent infestations, lack of ventilation, extreme heat – Doudou Mpumudjie Kikewa was allegedly treated like an animal, according to transcripts of Immigration Commission hearings and Refugee Status of Canada (IRB).

During his incarceration, the citizen of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) allegedly suffered shocking and racist treatment. In particular, he was allegedly deprived of water and forced to drink from the toilet bowl, according to IRB transcripts. He was also allegedly placed in solitary confinement at the prison, where there were no services in French for the unilingual French-speaking inmate.

In August 2019, the 34-year-old man was convicted of identity theft, fraud and court order violations.

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Mr. Kikewa should have stayed in prison for about a year, but he ended up receiving a double sentence. The IRB decided to expel from the country in June 2020 the man who had been a permanent resident since 2006. While awaiting this removal, he remained in preventive detention because he presented a flight risk and represented a danger to the public, according to the court.

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A correctional officer in Her Majesty's Penitentiary, Newfoundland and Labrador, in May 2017.< /p>

The return of Mr. Kikewa to the DRC, a country where he had not set foot since his adolescence, was nevertheless repeatedly rejected, including because he refused to speak to Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers and to take a COVID-19 test, a measure required by Congolese authorities.

As the stay at Her Majesty's Penitentiary continued, Mr. Kikewa's mental health deteriorated. ;#x27;is deteriorated, according to IRB documents.

He had been placed in solitary confinement and was under surveillance because he presented a suicide risk; he was seen hitting his head against the wall several times, we read in a Federal Court judgment from January 2022.

In a declaration submitted to the IRB in February 2021, the assistant superintendent of the penitentiary notes that the inmate does not have access to any services in French. In addition to not being able to benefit from the support of his family, he indicates that Mr. Kikewa had no financial means to buy hygiene products and food and had no one to interact with and discuss.

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The penitentiary of Her Majesty is the oldest prison in the country.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, there are no federal detention centers for migrants.

Mr. Kikewa requested several times to be transferred to a detention center in Quebec, a French-speaking province where members of his family live. The request was granted, but the transfer was delayed a few times.

Mr. Kikewa cannot be transferred to a commercial plane due to security concerns, and this must be done by a private plane with the assistance of the RCMP, Commissioner Dianne Tordorf noted at an IRB hearing on July 15, 2021.

A first transfer attempt a few months later failed. Commissioner Élise Leclerc-Gagné indicated during an IRB hearing on February 15, 2021, that Mr. Kikewa allegedly received threats from an agent who told him that he was going to make his life difficult before 'send to Montreal.

He would have been put on the ground and somewhat strangled for about thirty minutes and allegedly also received kicks all over his body. In addition, an agent allegedly made racist remarks during his transport, she indicated, noting that the transfer did not ultimately take place.

On March 3, 2022, 19 months after the start of his pretrial detention, Mr. Kikewa's transfer took place, but not without problems and violence.

What the court understood was that there were a lot of measures taken to secure Mr. [Kikewa], Commissioner Ethan Friedman said during a hearing on March 15, 2022.

Mr Kikewa explained how he had been tied up, that he […] wore a mask, he could not see, he was gave an injection without his permission, he had great difficulty breathing, he was in his seat for three or four hours for the flight. At some point, he passed out, he continued.

According to Commissioner Friedman, a sedative was reportedly administered to the detainee, a measure taken to manage his stress and distress during the theft.

According to the minister's advice, the [Canada Border Services] Agency tried to control a situation that was difficult, adds Mr. Friedman.

Once arriving at the Rivière-des-Prairies detention facility, Mr. Kikewa was kept in solitary confinement and was only able to take two showers between March 3 and 15, according to IRB transcripts.

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The Rivière-des-Prairies provincial detention facility, in Montreal.

He has not changed his clothes since his arrival. He has the same underwear, said Commissioner Friedman, March 31, 2022.

Radio-Canada was unable to contact Mr. Kikewa, and his lawyer, Pierre-Olivier Marcoux, did not want to grant an interview without contacting his client. We have not been able to confirm whether Mr. Kikewa's dismissal has taken place.

The treatment by Mr. Kikewa raises many questions about the fate of people detained for immigration reasons in Newfoundland and Labrador. Provincial Minister of Justice and Public Safety John Hogan said March 4 that immigration detention is not standard practice in Newfoundland and Labrador.

I think we are managing detention well at the moment, he continued, adding that to his knowledge, there have been only a handful of cases in recent years.

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John Hogan, Minister of Justice and Public Safety of Newfoundland and Labrador, in February 2022. (File photo)

However, CBSA data shows that 28 people were held in preventive detention in a provincial prison between 2019 and 2023, most of them in Her Majesty's Penitentiary.

Detention is used as a measure of last resort, says CBSA spokesperson Karine Martel. About three-quarters of individuals detained in provincial correctional facilities are inadmissible for reasons of serious criminality, as was Mr. Kikewa.

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The provincial Department of Justice and Public Safety refutes the CBSA figures, saying only two people have been detained solely for immigration reasons for two years.

A ministry spokesperson says the province has advocated strongly for Mr. Kikewa to be taken into care by the CBSA once his sentence has been served.

Any action involving this detainee during his detention on Earth -Neuve-et-Labrador is the result of the risks he presents to himself, to staff and/or to other inmates, he continues.

Mr. Kikewa was convicted of assaulting a correctional officer while in custody in July 2020.

Au In early March, Radio-Canada reported that Newfoundland and Labrador was the only Canadian province that did not plan to end the controversial practice of incarcerating migrants in its prisons.< /p>

The provincial government has since changed its mind.

On March 12, 2024, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador sent an official notice to the Canadian Border Security Agency informing it that' #x27;it would stop accepting people detained only under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act as of March 31, 2025, says Eric Humber. The agency should receive this notice in the coming days.

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Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116