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Federal Government to Appeal Safe Third Country Agreement Ruling

Canada will appeal a Federal Court ruling saying the Safe Third Country Agreement on refugees with the United States violates the Canadian constitution.

Minister of Public Safety, Bill Blair said in a statement the appeal was being filed due to legal and factual errors in the findings.

Blair’s statement said: “There are important legal principles to be examined in this case, and it is the responsibility of the Canadian government to appeal to ensure clarity on the legal structure governing asylum law.

“Ottawa has a long and proud tradition of providing protection to those who needed it most by offering refuge to the world’s most vulnerable people, and the Canadian government remains firmly committed to promoting a compassionate, fair and orderly refugee protection system.

“The Safe Third Country Agreement remains a comprehensive vehicle to help realize that, based on the principle that people should claim asylum in the first safe country to which they first arrive.”

The STCA, in place since 2004, means asylum seeker must make their refugee claim in the first ‘safe’ country to which they arrive.

In practice it means Canadian border officials can turn back potential refugee claimants who arrive at recognized land points of entry along the United States border, advising them to make their claims in the United States.

It is also the reason thousands of asylum seekers have been flocking into Canada at unrecognized border areas in recent years, using it as an indirect route into the Canadian system.

Federal Court Justice Ann Marie McDonald stated in her July 22nd decision that elements of the agreement violate the constitutional guarantee of liberty, life, and security, suspending her decision for six months.

Refugee groups have long castigated the agreement, saying the U.S. is not a ‘safe’ country for refugee claimants to be sent back to.

The original case was brought to court by a group including refugee claimants, the Canadian Council for Refugees, the Canadian Council of Churches, and Amnesty International.

The group claimed that by returning people back to the United States, they are potentially exposing them to detention and rights violations.

Justice Ann McDonald agreed that those sent back faced imprisonment, saying the outcome was “inconsistent with the spirit and objective” of the Safe Third Country Agreement, resulting in a violation of rights.

The STCA has been further brought into the limelight since Donald Trump became president in 2016.

Early this year, Trump moved to threaten the refugee status of thousands in the United States., causing them to flee north to Canada.

However, because of the agreement, claimants chose to cross into Canada at unrecognized border areas, allowing them to enter the Canadian refugee system.

Since the initial increase of so-called ‘irregular border crossers’ in 2017, about 60,000 have flooded across the Canadian border according to official figures, the vast majority into Quebec through the now-infamous Roxham Road crossing point.

Only since the border was shut down to non-essential travel has a steady stream of nearly 1,000 people per month stopped.

After 955 people crossed in March 2020, the combined figure for April, May, and June is just fifty-nine (59) irregular border crossers.