Ralph Goodale Yet To Confirm Meeting With Immigrant Detainees On Hunger Strike

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TORONTO — An activist group says at least a dozen immigrants detained at Ontario correctional facilities remain on hunger strike after more than two weeks.

Immigrant and refugee rights group No One Is Illegal says approximately 50 men at the Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay and the Toronto East Detention Centre began refusing food on July 11, but that several have since decided to resume eating.

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Ralph Goodale speaks with the media in the House of Commons, June 15. (Photo: Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

The organization says it has been in daily contact with the detainees, who are demanding a meeting with Public Safety minister Ralph Goodale, an end to immigrants being detained in maximum security facilities and a 90-day limit on immigrant detentions in general.

Dan Brien, a spokesman for the minister, says the organization is overestimating the number of detainees on hunger strike.

Brien said there were initially 41 detainees on hunger strike and that only two men are still refusing meals. He also said none of the participants have been at the Toronto East facility.

No One Is Illegal says it's the bigger picture that matters.

"It's not really about the exact numbers of people, it's the fact that the strike is ongoing," said Tings Chak, a spokeswoman for No One Is Illegal. "The demands have remained unchanged, we still have not heard back (about) a meeting with Ralph Goodale."

ralph goodale
Ralph Goodale appears as a witness at a National Security and Defence Senate committee in Ottawa on May 30. (Photo: Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

The group says the hunger strike is taking a physical, psychological and emotional toll on the men still refusing food.

Public Safety Canada says that of the 250,000 people per day who try to come to Canada, only a small minority are detained, and those cases are reviewed regularly by an independent tribunal.

Brien said the minister is working on "issues related to detention," including possible alternatives to detention, upgrades to infrastructure at detention facilities and "appropriate'' accountability mechanisms for the Canadian Border Services Agency.

He said Goodale hopes to put forward proposals later this year.

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