For immediate release
October 6, 2014

BWSS to Appear as Witness at Coroner’s Inquest into Death of Lucia Vega Jimenez

Vancouver, BC – For several years, Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS) has been raising the alarm about the relationship between gender violence and precarious immigration for women, in general, and specifically from Mexico. The devastating situation for Lucia Vega Jimenez, a Mexican woman, who strangled herself, December 2013, while in custody at Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) at Vancouver International Airport awaiting deportation to Mexico is currently being examined by a Coroner’s Inquest and BWSS applied, was denied participant status into the inquest, however after issues of gender violence were illuminated, BWSS applied to the Coroner again and now will appear as a witness Monday, October 6, 2014.

The Inquest has illuminated the ways in which gender violence and precarious immigration status is not understood very well or is being ignored by Canadian officials. Through our work we have learned that it is virtually impossible for a Mexican woman to escape from violence and to make it into Canada, a country known to offer protection to people who are being persecuted, including those who experience gendered persecution. We have heard of women who have been deported to Mexico and have been murdered including in 2009, “Grise” was raped and murdered upon her deportation in Mexico and Veronica Castro who was in immigration detention center in 2012 and deported to Mexico and was murdered five weeks after returning to Mexico. Rosa Elena Arteaga BWSS Manager Direct Service and Clinical Practice will appear as a witness for the Coroner and through her appearance seeks to highlight systemic failures while making important recommendations. Rosa Elena Arteaga was born in Mexico, maintains communication with women’s groups all over Mexico and has participated in many forums to address the issue of missing and murdered women in north Mexico, as well as, the intersection between violence against women and precarious immigration.

“By coming twice to Canada, under the conditions that she did, we can easily conclude that she was seeking life and that life included freedom of violence.” Said Rosa Elena Arteaga, BWSS Manager Direct Services and Clinical Practice.

During the inquest, the testimony of three witnesses spoke to Ms Jimenez’s fear about returning to Mexico due to a domestic situation, which included not only an ex-boyfriend but a much more serious problem that involved fear of being tortured and murdered.  And it seems that CBSA treated her removal from Canada as a priority, over following appropriate procedures. It was clear that Ms Jimenez was intending to file a Pre-Removal Risk Assessment, or PRRA, which had to be submitted within 15 days. This is a final opportunity for someone who has no status in Canada to apply to remain because they could face persecution, danger of torture, risk to life, or risk of cruel or unusual treatment or punishment in their country of origin including gender violence.

The federal government has indicated that the possibility of filing a PRRA exists because “Canada is committed to ensuring that people being removed from Canada are not sent to a country where they would be in danger or at risk of persecution.” The CBSA knew that Ms Jimenez intended to file a PRRA because she had told them. But the CBSA officer testified that this was not her priority. In fact, she testified that assisting with a PRRA wasn’t in CBSA’s interest. BWSS questions whether CBSA had discounted Ms Jimenez’s experience of gender violence and the risk of death it appeared she faced returning to Mexico.

“Recognizing that gender violence is a reality for woman such as Lucia.” Said Vicky Law, BWSS Legal Advocate. “We recommend that CBSA follow appropriate procedures so that women are able to access all the possible legal options available in the time frame that is appropriate to fully complete the necessary steps.”

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For more information:
Rosa Elena Arteaga, BWSS Manager Direct Services and Clinical Practice
Phone: 778-929-5273 Email: [email protected]
Vicky Law, BWSS Legal Advocate
Phone: 778-929-5273 Email: [email protected]