Ending Immigration Detention: An Open Letter to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Open Letter from WRMC Chair Lloyd Axworthy and Member Allan Rock

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, PC, MP
Prime Minister
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
K1A 0A6

March 6, 2023

RE: Letter from organizations on ending immigration detention

Dear Prime Minister:

We write to share a letter from leading Canadian and international organizations serving and working to protect the human rights of migrants and refugee claimants. We echo their call to immediately end the use of provincial jails for immigration detention and to ultimately end the practice of immigration detention in Canada. 

Download Open Letter: Coroner’s inquest into the death of Abdurahman Hassan and renewed request to stop the use of provincial jails for immigration detention

Télécharger la lettre ouverte: Enquête du coroner sur le décès d’Abdurahman Hassan et relance de notre appel à mettre fin à l’utilisation des prisons provinciales pour des détentions liées à l’immigration

As you know, Canada’s immigration detention system is deadly; at least 17 people have died in immigration detention since 2000, including most recently on December 25, 2022. The enclosed letter draws attention to the coroner’s inquest into the 2015 death of Abdurahman Hassan, which concluded in February 2023. The inquest highlighted the disturbing conditions that Mr. Hassan endured before his death, including solitary confinement and indefinite detention. As the purpose of the inquest is to prevent similar deaths from taking place in the future, it is significant that the jury’s first recommendation was that the Government of Canada “seek and allocate resources to develop and implement a plan to end the practice of housing immigration detainees in provincial correctional facilities in Ontario”. 

This recommendation, and the calls from the organizations in the enclosed letter, cannot be left unaddressed any longer. We cannot allow unjustified fears about public security to override our respect for human rights. Asylum seekers and migrants should be welcomed to Canada with dignity and respect, not dehumanized and detained. 

We, along with the organizational signatories, look forward to hearing from you about the government’s plan to end immigration detention in Canada, including by immediately ending the use of provincial jails.


Lloyd Axworthy, PC, CC, OM
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs
World Refugee & Migration Council Chair

Allan Rock, PC, CM, OOnt, KC
Former Ambassador to the United Nations
World Refugee & Migration Council Member

cc Hon. Sean Fraser, PC, MP
     Hon. Marco Mendicino, PC, MP

Photo: Wikimedia Commons


  • Lloyd Axworthy

    The Honourable Lloyd Axworthy is the chair of the World Refugee & Migration Council and one of Canada’s leading voices on global migration and refugee protection. After a 27-year political career, where he served as Canada’s minister of Foreign Affairs and minister of Employment and Immigration, among other postings, Mr. Axworthy has continued to work extensively on human security, refugee protection and human rights in Canada and abroad. He was presented with the Pearson Peace Medal by the Governor General of Canada in May 2017 and is a Companion of the Order of Canada. In his term as president and vice-chancellor of the University of Winnipeg, Mr. Axworthy initiated innovative programs for migrant and aboriginal youth communities, and has also done a great deal of work on refugee reform as a Richard von Weizsäcker fellow at Germany’s Robert Bosch Academy.

  • Allan Rock

    Allan Rock is the president emeritus and was until 2022 a professor of law at the University of Ottawa. A former trial lawyer, he entered politics in 1993 and spent 10 years as a federal cabinet minister in the Justice, Health, Industry and Infrastructure portfolios. Allan was Canada’s Ambassador to the United Nations between 2003 and 2006 and the president of the University of Ottawa from 2008 to 2016.