Yesterday we confirmed the tragic news of Lucia Vega Jimenez’s death while under Canadian Border Services Agency’s (CBSA) custody. (1)
Lucia was a 42-year old Mexican migrant who worked in Vancouver, Canada as a hotel worker. She was arrested by Transit police for an unpaid bus ticket and then transferred to immigration authorities, who detained and incarcerated her at a provincial prison pending deportation.(2) From there she was transferred to the detention holding cells at the Vancouver International Airport on December 19, 2013, and on December 20, 2013 she was rushed to the hospital.
On December 28, 2013 Lucia died at Mount St. Joseph’s Hospital, while still under CBSA custody.(3)
Three people, including Reverend Eduardo Quintero, confirmed that Lucia’s death was a suicide. Lucia hung herself in detention with a shower curtain during the early morning hours of December 20, 2013.(4) Reverend Quintero, of Vancouver's Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church, administered her last rites at Mount Saint Joseph Hospital.(5)
Lucia’s death was kept secret by CBSA and pubic officials for over a month.(6) Lucia’s sister Maria was forced to sign a non-disclosure secrecy agreement with authorities when she arrived from Mexico to Vancouver to arrange the release of her sister’s remains.(7)
Despite the attempted cover up for over a month, community members and migrant justice advocates such as Karla Lottini started hearing stories of a Mexican woman’s death in a detention center. Karla herself fled Mexico after receiving death threats for being a whistle-blower journalist and recently won refugee status in Canada after a prolonged legal battle.
Lucia had also previously made a refugee claim in Canada.(8)
According to Karla, “I want to know Lucia’s story. I can imagine the despair she must have felt facing a deportation order. We all need to know what happened to her while she was in the custody of Canadian Border Services Agency. This is not the first death or suicide of a migrant in detention or while facing deportation.”
Richmond RCMP, another law enforcement agency, was tasked with investigating this incident and have already completed their investigation. They found ‘no criminal cause’. Police-on-police investigations are completely inappropriate and incomplete.CBSA must be held accountable for this, and any other, tragic and shameful in-custody death.