The detainee found dead in the Surrey immigration holding centre on Christmas Day was a Taiwanese national described in media reports there as a cryptocurrency marijuana ring mastermind.
Pan Yuan, 25, had fled to Canada in 2022 and been arrested last October, according to the English language Taiwan News, which said the cause of death was suicide.
Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) had announced the death on Dec. 27, but did not release the cause or identity, citing privacy laws. CBSA said the detainee was found unresponsive and all revival efforts were unsuccessful before first responders declared the person dead.
Taiwan News reported that Internet influencer Pan was arrested in a September 2021 police raid on her home in New Taipei City. She was charged for importing more than 8 kilograms of marijuana from the U.S. hidden in small packages of tea and biscuits that were paid with bitcoin, ethereum and tether. A warrant had been issued for her arrest last spring after she did not complete court-ordered community service.
Pan’s two-year jail sentence in 2018 for buying marijuana was converted to five-years probation and 240 hours community service. At the time, she claimed she needed pot for medical reasons.
Unlike Canada, the manufacture, transport, sale and possession of marijuana remains illegal in Taiwan, where it is punishable with jail sentences and fines.
“This kind of cross border crime has happened more frequently in recent years between Taiwan and Canada,” said a statement by email from Lihsin Angel Liu, director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Vancouver. “Thus we found it necessary for Canada to form a formal channel of judicial cooperation with Taiwan as soon as possible, such as Mutual Legal Assistance Framework or Agreement. As to this individual case, we have no comment on it as it is the privacy of Ms. Pan's family. We have done our best to provide necessary assistance to the family.”
CBSA said Surrey RCMP and the B.C. Coroner were investigating the in-custody death and CBSA would conduct its own incident review.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have campaigned for immigration detention reform in Canada, where 94% of detainees are held for administrative reasons. Last July, NDP Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said B.C. Corrections would end its arrangement with CBSA to hold immigration detainees. At the time, there were 15 people on immigration detention in provincial correctional facilities.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, call 1-800-784-2433 (1-800-SUICIDE), or call your local crisis centre.