Neither Humanitarian Nor Compassionate: The Sad Case of Twain Anthony Reeves


Authored by Stuart G. Friedman, Barrister & Solicitor, Law Society of Ontario; Attorney-at-Law, State Bar of Michigan.

The Toronto Star recently had a troubling article about the case of Twain Anthony Reeves. Mr. Reeves is a Jamaican citizen who came to Canada when he was a child, fathered two Canadian children, and lived here for twenty-five years.

In 2008, he was injured on the job at the former Heinz ketchup plant in Leamington Ontario. Following the accident, his doctors prescribed him methadone to manage the pain.  This triggered his addiction.  Over the years and because of his addiction, Mr. Reeves chalked up a history of low-level drug offences.

In 2017, despite his time in Canada and being the father of two Canadian children, Reeves was threatened with deportation due to several minor drug offenses.  Mr. Reeves spent two and a half years in immigration detention at a maximum-security provincial jail before being deported. This was twice as long as all of his criminal sentences combined. The jail’s medical staff provided him with daily methadone.

Despite the judge’s ruling that there was insufficient evidence to prove that he could not receive proper treatment for methadone withdrawal in Jamaica, it was later discovered that evidence supporting his case had not been presented in court.

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) failed to disclose a crucial document from the Jamaican Ministry of Health to the court. This document explicitly stated that the treatment required by Reeves was unavailable in Jamaica and recommended he remain in Canada on humanitarian grounds where treatment could be provided.

Federal Court Judge Michael D. Manson, unaware of this letter, ruled against delaying Reeves’ deportation, relying on incomplete evidence provided by the CBSA. This decision led to Reeves suffering severe withdrawal symptoms after his deportation, as he was unable to receive appropriate addiction treatment in Jamaica.

When Mr. Reeves arrived in Jamaica, he was taken by ambulance to the facility which could supposedly treat him.  To his shock and amazement, the facility knew nothing about this and was not equipped to treat him.  They were forced to release Mr. Reeves, who was forced to go through a hard and painful “cold turkey” withdrawal devoid of any medical supervision or pain management.

Reeves is now suing the federal government, accusing CBSA officials of deliberately withholding evidence, engaging in illegal and negligent conduct, and violating his Charter rights. In the suit, Mr. Reeves through his lawyer Reeves alleged that “CBSA officers engaged in a pattern of illegal, abusive, arbitrary, bad faith and negligent conduct.” Had he been allowed to wean off the drug in Canada, he would not have “suffered the debilitating effects of methadone withdrawal without treatment or care,” the lawsuit continued.

The lawsuit highlights the lack of oversight of the CBSA and calls for the establishment of an independent oversight body.  The story comes at a time when the federal government is facing broader issues of transparency and accountability within the CBSA, emphasizing the need for government action to implement promised oversight mechanisms.

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