Questions raised over Canada Border Services Agency's handling of in-custody death at YVR

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The B.C. Civil Liberties Association has said it is troubled by the circumstances around the death of a Mexican woman who was in the custody of the Canada Border Services Agency.

“We are terribly concerned by the unconfirmed media report that Lucia Vega Jiménez’s sister signed a confidentiality agreement with CBSA in relation to Ms. Vega's death,” said executive director Josh Paterson, quoted in a news release. “If what Ms. Vega's sister is saying is true, it raises a real question as to the good faith of CBSA in dealing with this death. Was CBSA trying to keep the family quiet? If so, why? Did CBSA fail to disclose what happened to the public for a month in the hope that they could keep the news of this death under wraps?”

According to reports in 24 Hours, 42-year-old Jiménez committed suicide in December after she was arrested for an unpaid transit fair and detained by CBSA officers at Vancouver International Airport.

The BCCLA subsequently raised questions about authorities’ handling of the woman’s death. In addition to concerns about an alleged nondisclosure agreement, the BCCLA also called attention to reports that Jiménez was monitored by private security guards and not by trained CBSA officers at the time she is believed to have taken her life.

“Pawning off the job of guarding and protecting prisoners to private companies is irresponsible,” said Paterson, according to the release. “And whether it was CBSA officers or contractors hired by CBSA who were guarding Ms Vega Jiménez - it was CBSA's responsibility to protect her from harm while she was detained. We need answers as to why that protection failed so tragically for Ms Vega Jiménez.”

The CBSA has declined to comment on the specifics of Jiménez’s case but has stressed that its agents take seriously the safety of people in its custody.

Jiménez’s death was first brought to the media’s attention by a Mexican journalist named Karla Lottini.

“She attempted to take her life because she was in despair at her deportation order,” Lottini told 24 Hours.

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