A Burundian man, Prosper Niyonzima, who spent four years in immigration detention, including more than two years in solitary confinement, has launched a $65-million lawsuit against the Canadian government for allegedly violating his Charter rights, reports one Canadian magazine, CBC News.
Prosper Niyonzima, 36, originally from Burundi, became a permanent resident of Canada in 1995 after three of his siblings and his parents were murdered in the Rwandan genocide. He lost that status after he was convicted of a string of crimes, including break and enter, theft and drug trafficking. He was placed in immigration detention in 2012 as he waited to be deported, the magazine reports.
The CBC Canada reports that Prosper Niyonzima says that his mental health worsened and he became catatonic, unable to speak for three years in immigration detention.
According to a statement of claim filed in Ontario Superior Court on Oct. 29, Niyonzima was placed in solitary confinement and suffered a mental breakdown in 2013 that rendered him catatonic.
The magazine reports that while in solitary confinement, Prosper Niyonzima alleges he was denied proper food, clothing, medical care and yard time( time spent alone on the yard with no contact with other inmates) and was permitted to take only three showers over the course of a year.
He alleges he was also subjected to “painful and forcible” electroconvulsive therapy. In 2016, he was released on a temporary resident’s permit.
Niyonzima, who currently lives in Toronto, said there is no question that immigration detention aggravated his mental health issues. CBC Canada reports that none of the allegations in the claim has been proven in court.
‘The Canadian government kept silent’.
After that, records show he was diagnosed with depression and anxiety that was connected to post-traumatic stress disorder(PTSD). The PTSD is said to be based on what he witnessed as a child. Symptoms of the PTSD may include nightmares or flashbacks, avoidance of situations that bring back the trauma, heightened reactivity to stimuli, anxiety or depressed mood, the Mayo Clinic reports.
His lawyer noted that, once his client started receiving psychiatric treatment, the criminal activity stopped. But because of the crimes, Niyonzima lost his permanent residency and was set to be deported back to Burundi.
“We have… psychologists, psychiatrists, doctors saying, ‘Don’t put him in detention, it can exacerbate his mental health issues,'” said Bharati, his lawyer.
“And the government didn’t listen. He’s put in a small box, a room, and he’s left there for two straight years.”, Niyonzima’s lawyer told CBC News.
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