Mexican woman who died in detention at YVR had been arrested for unpaid transit ticket

A 42-year-old Mexican woman who died after being detained by the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) in December was being held by private security firm Genesis, under contract from CBSA, Global News has learned.

While CBSA is in charge of the holding centre at YVR, it contracts out to the private security firm. VP of Genesis Security, Ashley Meehan said he cannot comment on specifics as the case is under investigation.

Lucia Vega Jiménez died in hospital more than eight days after being stopped at Vancouver International Airport (YVR).

Global News has also learned Jiménez had been denied refugee status in Vancouver, and had been ordered back to Mexico.

The organization “No One Is Illegal” says that Jiménez was working in a local hotel when she was arrested last month over an unpaid transit ticket. A release from the group says Jiménez was sent to jail and then to an airport holding cell to await deportation.

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Sources say Jiménez attempted to take her own life in a holding centre shower stall, and it reportedly took nearly an hour for private security guards to find her.

RCMP were called in to investigate, but ultimately concluded Jiménez’s death was not criminal.

Over 500 people have signed a petition, protesting the death of Jiménez.

The Canadian Border Services Agency has issued the following statement:

On December 20, 2013, first responders were called to the B.C. Immigration Holding Centre at the Vancouver International Airport and a short term detainee was sent to hospital.

The next of kin were notified of the individual’s medical condition. Sadly the individual passed away on December 28, 2013.

The health and safety of those in our care is of paramount concern. We take this responsibility very seriously and it is important to determine the circumstances surrounding any loss of life.

The Richmond RCMP were initially called in to investigate this matter and it has since been found to be not criminal in nature. The CBSA continues to cooperate with the B.C. Coroners Service, as their investigation is ongoing.

The CBSA is not in a position to release further information while the B.C. Coroners Service investigation is ongoing.

Steven Blaney, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, issued the following statement on Jiménez’s death: “We have been made aware of the tragic event that took place at the B.C. Immigration Holding Centre. The Minister expects the CBSA to fully cooperate with the Coroners Service of British Columbia.”

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Barb McLintock with the Coroners Service said Jiménez went into medical distress on Dec. 20.

She was rushed to Mount St. Joseph hospital but died on Dec. 28.

“We are considering this an in-custody death because she was not free to leave detention at that point, she was definitely detained so as such that does put a little extra onus to us to make sure that we do an incredibly thorough investigation,” said McClintock.

Josh Paterson, the executive director of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) said many questions still have to be answered.

“It’s certainly troubling,” he said. “How is it that a month passes between when someone dies in the custody of a police force and finally the story is starting to creep out through media reports, through rumours, through journalists who are investigating? These are things that police forces need to disclose, as far as we’re concerned, right away.”

“These aren’t things that should be left for people to ferret out, and it raises questions as to, is this the only woman who’s died in custody of the CBSA? Or are there others for whom the story hasn’t kind of leaked out over time?”

WATCH: Coverage on Unfiltered with Jill Krop:

Community members and activists have organized a vigil and gathering to honour the life of Lucia Vega Jiménez on Friday, Jan. 31, at 5:30 p.m. in front of the CBSA offices at 300 West Georgia.

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— with files from Canadian Press

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