A Toronto Immigration lawyer with a broad practice in Canadian immigration law will periodically have to represent clients who are detained by the immigration authorities. The concentration of people, and hence immigration clientele in the Toronto area necessitates the numerous detention facilities close to, or in Toronto.
The official holding centre for immigration-related detainees is the immigration detention centre at 385 Rexdale Boulevard, conveniently located near Toronto’s Pearson International Airport. Thus, if a Canadian immigration officer at the airport cannot determine the identity of a person seeking entry to Canada, or determines that a person seeking entry to Canada is a convict, or a danger, or will go ‘underground’, then it is only a ten minute drive from the airport to detention at 385 Rexdale to place that person in detention.
This address also houses the Immigration Division of Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board, the tribunal which determines whether it is justified for the immigration authorities to detain a person under Canada’s Immigration laws. The administrative advantage to this is obvious: transporting a detained person to his detention hearing is just few steps downstairs, rather than to a different facility.
385 Rexdale blvd also accommodates children of those persons detained under Canada’s immigration laws. For this reason, when 385 Rexdale Blvd is full, it is the adult males who are often detained at the Toronto West Detention Centre, also very close to Toronto’s international airport (so as to allow kids to stay at 385 Rexdale, rather than a jail).
“The West” is a real, honest to goodness jail, characterized by brutalist architecture, and the orange and brown colour pastiche that was so popular in the mid-1970s. As experienced lawyers will tell you, the staff at real jails is characterized by grumpiness, and mild depression, some giving off random quips that are sometimes insightful, but usually intimidating. Not a lot of smiles to go around. It is not a good idea for anyone to be in a jail too long, even one in Canada.
The East Detention Centre (“The East”) is also a ‘real jail’, located just south of Eglinton and Warden in Scarborough, the east side of Toronto. It also has that preoccupation with brown bricks and small windows. It occasionally houses people who have run afoul of Canadian immigration law, in addition to persons charged under Canada’s Criminal Code. Years ago, I learnt something of the sub-culture within jails when I represented an Egyptian male, slight of frame, and shorter than average. He was detained by Canada’s immigration laws because of a white collar crime (which made sense, given his stature). He complained that the larger inmates would take his food and take longer in the shower. He cited these reasons as why he really wanted to get out of there.
Representatives of the Immigration Division, a sub-tribunal of Canada’s Immigration Refugee Board, have to travel there, and record their detention hearing with what looks like a Sony walkman. The recording is then subsequently transcribed. The review of the detention under Canada’s immigration laws takes place in one of the three rooms which are too small to accommodate the Immigration Division judge (or ‘Member’), the person detained, his lawyer, and the opposing party (the person who represents the Canada Border Service Agency). A colleague of mine remarked that it seemed like he was in the ‘lap’ of the judge. It is really a contrast when compared to the courtrooms at the Federal Court of Canada, for example, which are newer, accommodate laptops, and are at least five to 10 times as big.
The proliferation of video conferencing has been a boon to Canadian immigration lawyers, as well as Canada’s immigration department. This allows persons detained at the other more far-flung jails in Ontario to have their Canadian immigration detention matters to be heard at 385 Rexdale blvd. This central processing of persons detained in many other jails outside of Toronto makes 385 Rexdale a hub of activity for Toronto’s immigration lawyers. That’s another reason why there are so many immigration lawyers in Toronto.