Refugee claimant held in prison ‘ for no real reason at all ‘

By Lincoln DePradine

Ricardo Scotland

The lawyer for a Barbadian-born refugee claimant, who spent months in jail despite not having any criminal charges or convictions, won’t say if his client’s treatment by Canadian immigration officials had anything to do with his ethnicity.

“I don’t have any evidence and I can’t say for sure,’’ Subodh Bharati told The Caribbean Camera on Tuesday, when asked about the officials’ attitude to his client, Ricardo Scotland, who has spent a total of 18 months in a maximum-security jail in two stints over the last two years.

On Monday, Ontario Superior Court Justice Edward Morgan ordered Scotland’s immediate release from immigration detention.

Scotland is the single parent to a 13-year-old daughter.

Bharati said Scotland was “very excited’’ to be released. “He can’t wait to see his daughter,’’ the lawyer said. “I haven’t spoken to him since yesterday (Monday). I’m giving him a chance to reconnect with his family.’’

Scotland, 38, filed a refugee claim in 2010 to remain in Canada. He was detained by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) as a flight risk while his refugee claim was being processed, based on four alleged breaches of conditions related to criminal charges that were later stayed by the Crown.

The first alleged breach was the fact Scotland did not inform authorities of a change of address after he had been arrested.

The CBSA and the Immigration and Refugee Board are the two government bodies that oversee the arrest and detention of non-citizens. The authorities are allowed to jail detainees for an indefinite length of time without trial.

Bharati conceded that most of those held in detention are non-whites; but, he and other lawyers and activists have blamed the problem on a system they describe as inherently procedurally unfair and which “violates the principles of fundamental justice.”

According to Bharati, “it’s absurd that a person with no criminal convictions, a father to a girl who doesn’t have a mom, is being held in a maximum-security prison, despite the fact that he has a refugee claim’’.

In his ruling Monday, Justice Morgan told Scotland that he was “free to go,” saying that the Barbadian man has been “held in prison for no real reason at all’’.

“He appears enmeshed in an endless circuit of mistakes, unproven accusations, and technicalities,” Morgan said.  “I will simply say that Mr. Scotland is to keep the peace and to attend all immigration proceedings and to present himself to immigration authorities as, and when, required by law.”

Scotland, whose refugee claim could be decided next month, remains under a conditional deportation order. It takes effect only if his – and his daughter’s – refugee claims are denied.

“Everything (Justice Morgan) said is true,” Scotland said shortly after he was released.” “I did nothing wrong.”