A Toronto man, who was held in immigration detention for five-and-a-half years, has launched a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against Ottawa.
Abdirahmaan Warssama, 54, was detained at two maximum security detention facilities, first in Toronto and later in Lindsay, Ont., from May 2010 to December 2015 while waiting for his deportation to Somalia.
Over 2,042 days behind bars, he underwent more than 70 detention reviews but each time an independent panel sent him back to jail, convinced he was likely to flee and fail to appear for his removal — until a Federal Court judge overturned his continued detention and ordered Ottawa to explore the possibility of returning Warssama to Somalia and consider alternatives to detention.
“The sole purpose of his detention was to facilitate his removal from Canada to Somalia. Yet for the totality of his detention, removal to Somalia was never attempted,” said Warssama’s statement of claim against the federal government filed with the court Thursday. He is seeking $55 million in damages.
“Despite the fact (that) he suffered from mental health issues, his detention was solely administrative not punitive, and he was not considered a danger to the public, yet at all material times, Warssama was detained in a maximum-security prison.”
The claims have not been proven in court. The Attorney General of Canada, the defendant, has declined to comment because of the ongoing court process. No statement of defence has yet been filed.
While incarcerated, Warssama alleged in the lawsuit, he was subjected to “humiliating and degrading experiences,” including being strip-searched, physically assaulted, robbed, denied warm clothing and health care, forced to endure freezing temperatures, unsanitary living conditions and lengthy and numerous lockdowns.
Warssama came to Canada for asylum in 1989 but the claim was denied in the same year. He was allowed to stay in Canada on humanitarian grounds — partially due to his diagnosis with post-traumatic stress disorder. However, he kept moving around and never obtained his permanent residence status.