Protesters marched to the offices of a St. Henri architect on Sunday, voicing displeasure with the potential construction of a new immigration holding centre in Laval to replace the existing one. 

The Lemay architecture firm is bidding to design the facility.

The building would be run by the Canada Border Services Agency for newcomers who have been deemed a danger to the public, are unable to prove their identity, or are considered a flight risk to leave the country.

The proposal, however, has some members of the public looking at events in the United States and fearing that the new Laval facility will become more than just a holding centre.

“I think people are glued to their screens watching Trump fill up the migrant prisons there and they don’t realize that there’s a migrant prison in our backyard here,” said David Zinman, who organized the protest.

One proposed design would see the centre span over eight thousand square metres and be completed by 2020.

The current facility in Laval is one of three in Canada that confines immigrants, with the others being located in Vancouver and Toronto. 

A 2017 study from the University of Toronto found that an average of 48 children per year were kept at one Canadian facility alone, although they were with their families. 

“It’s very easy to detain people for immigration in Canada,” said Stewart Istvanffy, an immigration lawyer. “It’s a whole separate legal regime from the criminal system.” 

Neil Drabkin was Harper’s chief of staff and is currently an immigration lawyer.

He said the Harper government was responsible for repurposing the facilities in their exclusive use as immigration detention centres, although the buildings have been used to house migrants since the 1990s.

“They’re there to ensure the safety and security of Canadians,” he said. “There are tens of thousands of people coming into the country illegally. The vast majority are released, but there will be those who we can’t identify and who we will need to detain.”

Despite the outrage, Drabkin feels that they will be around for years to come.

“There’s a good reason for why these detention centres exist and they’ll continue to exist,” he said.