Questions abound in death of Mexican national while held in YVR detention

Posted by admin on Jan 30th, 2014

By Paula Baker Global News

There are more questions than answers surfacing regarding the in-custody death of Mexican national Lucia Jimenez. While the Canada Border Services Agency is revealing few answers, Global News has learned more about the hours before Jimenez’s death from a family friend, who was by her side while she was on life support in the hospital. “She doesn’t have a voice, she’s helpless, she’s laying there and we can’t do anything for her,” Yasmin Trejo, a friend of the Jimenez family, said.

This is the reason Trejo is speaking out. She wants to give Jimenez a voice. Jimenez, a refugee claimant, attempted suicide while detained by CBSA at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) on December 20, 2013. The 42-year-old was about to be deported back to Mexico when she hung herself in a shower stall at the CBSA detention centre at YVR. Eight days later she was taken off life support.

“She had gone about 40 minutes without oxygen before they found her,” Trejo said.

“I was in shock, she must have been maybe 5’1″, a small-framed woman. So for her to have the strength and the time to be able to do that to herself, she must have gone a long time without anyone taking a peek on her or checking up on her.”

A source told Global News that Jimenez was not discovered in her detention cell for almost an hour, however this has not been confirmed.

CBSA is in charge of the holding centre at the airport but it contracts the security to a private firm, Genesis.

So far few questions have been answered – who was responsible for checking up on Jimenez? did she talk to a lawyer? The CBSA isn’t releasing any additional information and in a written statement to Global News said:

“The Richmond RCMP were initially called in to investigate this matter and it has since been found to be not criminal in nature. The CBSA continues to cooperate with the B.C. Coroners Service, as their investigation is ongoing.

The CBSA never asked the family to sign a confidentiality agreement.

The CBSA is not in a position to release further information while the B.C. Coroners Service investigation is ongoing.”

WATCH: Many questions around CBSA in-custody death

Global News did find out that while in lock-up Jimenez made a desperate call to Trejo’s friend.

“She said basically I can’t go back [to Mexico], I’d rather be dead,” Trejo said.

While in the hospital Trejo spoke with Jimenez’ sister, who flew in from Mexico, and told her that Jimenez’s life was threatened back at home. When seeking confirmation from the Immigration Refugee Board of this threat in Mexico, the board said it couldn’t comment due to privacy issues.

According to Trejo, Jimenez’s sister, Marta, did not get any support from the Mexican consulate. Describing the experience as “terrible”, Marta told Trejo the consulate did not help to make any arrangements for her to get to Vancouver and even questioned her on why she was bothering to go “when we can just unplug her here and save the expense.”

When the Mexican consulate was contacted for comment regarding Jimenez’s death and arrangements for her sister, Global News received this written response:

“As in all cases involving Mexicans abroad, the Government of Mexico, through the Consulate General of Mexico in Vancouver, provided consular protection services to Lucia Vega Jimenez, a Mexican national.

The Consulate General also facilitated contact with her family and arranged for her remains to be returned to Mexico.

The Government of Mexico deeply regrets the death of Lucia Vega and has expressed its condolences to her family.

The Consulate General will be attentive to the results of the inquest by Canadian Authorities in this case.

The CBSA is not in a position to release further information while the B.C. Coroners Service investigation is ongoing.”

Trejo said she will continue to fight for Jimenez and push for a public inquiry.

“She might have not followed whatever procedure there is when you come here. But I don’t think that made her a criminal, it didn’t make her a bad person. I think people need to get some sort of answers. We don’t want this to happen to anyone else.”

This morning a petition was launched to the Minister of Public Safety Steven Blaney, the CBSA, and BC Coroners Service to have a full inquiry and investigation into the death of Jimenez while under CBSA custody.

The petition also calls for independent civilian oversight and a comprehensive review of migrant detention policies.

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