A coalition of eight immigrant, refugee and Latin American community groups have been denied participant status by the BC Coroners Service into the death of Lucia Vega Jimenez while she was held in custody earlier this year.
“This is a completely unreasonable decision by the BC Coroners Service,” says journalist Karla Lottini. We informed the media about Lucia’s death, while the Canadian Border Services Agency hid the truth for one month. We gathered information, organized memorials, and pressed the government for justice. Given our active involvement every step of the way, we never imagined we would be excluded from this inquest.”
Lucia Vega Jimenez was a 42-year Mexican hotel worker who died while under Canadian Border Service Agency’s custody in December 2013 after being turned over to immigration authorities by TransLink police. Just prior to her scheduled deportation to Mexico, she hung herself in cells at the Vancouver International Airport. She died eight days later, on December 28, 2013.
Her death sparked national outrage over the conditions of CBSA detention. A petition by these community groups with over 8,688 signatures calls for a full, transparent and independent civilian inquiry and investigation. The petition also calls for independent civilian oversight and a comprehensive review of migrant detention policies.
“To be shut out of the very same inquest that we advocated for is a blatant disrespect to frontline migrant and Mexican communities. We know the realities of Lucia and many others like Lucia who live in fear and suffer extreme mental distress while facing deportation,” says health worker Byron Cruz.
“Our coalition, and the communities represented within in it, are anxious to know what happened to Lucia while she was in the custody of Canadian Border Services Agency. We have several key concerns we were going to bring forward to the inquest, as well as vital information for the Coroner about Lucia’s life. Given that the Mexican Consulate has chosen not to participate in the inquest, who will represent our community’s interest?” says Mexican community member Rocco Trigueros.
“We urge the Coroner to reconsider. But if we remain shut out of this inquest we will continue to raise the issue of migrant detention that Lucia and thousands of other refugees and migrants face. We want no more Lucia’s,” further states activist Ana David.
The BC Civil Liberties is one of the organizations granted participant status at the inquest. Executive Director Josh Paterson says he is disappointed the community groups have been denied participant status: “These groups have been leading the way in calling for accountability into her death. Because of their close connection to these events, and knowledge of the case, their participation would help the Coroner to arrive at the truth of what happened.”
In August 2014, Canada came under fire from the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights’ Working Group on Arbitrary Detention for detaining migrants indefinitely without charge. Last year alone, 10,088 people were detained by the CBSA.