Inquest into Mexican women’s in-custody death leaves out Latin American groups

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      On Monday (September 29), a B.C. coroner and jury will begin hearing evidence related to the death of Lucia Vega Jiménez, a Mexican immigrant who reportedly attempted suicide while in the custody of the Canada Border Services Agency and died without regaining consciousness eight days later in hospital.

      In a telephone interview, Ana David, general coordinator for Latinos in Action, expressed disappointment with the B.C. Coroners Service for denying a coalition of Latin-American organizations permission to participate in the inquest.

      “Being shunned out as a group and as a coalition is a rather strong message to us that it doesn’t matter what we think and it doesn’t matter what we say,” she told the Straight. “The larger issue is that immigrants are throwaway people.”

      Vega Jiménez, 42, was found hanging in a shower stall at Vancouver International Airport in December 2013. She was awaiting deportation after being apprehended by Transit Police for failing to produce a TransLink ticket.

      The Straight previously reported that in 2013, Transit Police reported 328 incidents to the CBSA, resulting in 62 investigations.

      Coroners Service spokesperson Barb McLintock said by phone that the inquest should establish the circumstances around Vega Jiménez’s death but legally cannot assign blame. What the jury can do is make recommendations aimed at preventing future deaths in similar circumstances, she added.

      According to McLintock, the coalition of Latin-American groups of which David spoke was denied participatory status because another organization, the Canadian Council for Refugees, was already selected to represent the views of immigrants.

      “A lot of times, you’ll get a number of different groups all basically representing the same constituency,” McLintock said.

      On the phone from Montreal, CCR executive director Janet Dench said her organization is attending the inquest to highlight the importance of nongovernmental organizations having access to immigrants facing deportation or similarly difficult circumstances.

      Dench noted that CBSA facilities in Toronto and Montreal permit visits by groups offering assistance. “But in the B.C. detention centre, there is no access for NGOs,” she said.

      The only other organization approved for participatory status is the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.

      After Vega Jiménez’s death was reported by media, the BCCLA raised questions about alleged irregularities. It has asked why Vega Jiménez’s sister reportedly signed a confidentiality agreement in relation to the death (CBSA has denied that document exists). The BCCLA also expressed concern for reports that Vega Jiménez was monitored by private security guards and not by trained CBSA officers.

      The inquest will take place at the Coroner’s Court in Burnaby and is expected to last one week.

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      Comments

      4 Comments

      cathy

      Sep 24, 2014 at 2:08pm

      This is a shameful omission on the part of the BC Coroner.

      The CCR appears to be a well meaning group with support from churches and Gov't funded refugee/immigrant organizations.
      Perhaps the CCR needed to consider not participating until the Latin American Coalition groups could participate as well?

      By leaving out Latin American Coalition groups , the chances of a "cover up" and the real truth of what happened to Lucia Vega Jimenez increases and there may never be answers to the so called "irregularites' in this tragic case.

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      The Source

      Sep 24, 2014 at 3:35pm

      The simple truth is that woman was in the country ILLEGALLY and had no business being here in the first place.

      Nonetheless I’m glad about the publicity this case is receiving. Hopefully it will serve as a warning and deterrent to other illegal aliens who may be thinking of coming here.

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      Ted

      Sep 24, 2014 at 3:54pm

      @The Source, the simple truth is, you're a racist.

      Are you aboriginal? If not, you might want to double check that your ancestors arrived in Canada legally (not to mention without killing anyone, depending on how far back your history in this country goes).

      On a more serious note, a story like this is very seldom "simple" anything.

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      RUK

      Sep 24, 2014 at 10:57pm

      @Cathy

      Healthy skepticism is one thing, but you're accusing the CCR and the BCCLA of being parties to a coverup before the fact. I'd say those groups have a pretty strong, long track record of community service and advocacy for transparency and fairness. Who is Ana David? Google says she runs the Latin Summerfest and does party rentals, which is fine and everything - it's a great event - and it is very laudable to aspire to be as prominent in the human rights sphere as CCR and BCCLA. That should be encouraged. Did the BC Coroner err in not granting a group participatory status? Before you fling racism around, I dunno, is it? Does the BC Coroner have a record of being racist? Do you think they might have done this a few times before?

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