Canada: Don’t Abandon Refugees

The Federal Court of Canada has found, for a second time, that the Canada-US Safe Third Country Agreement is unconstitutional. It violates section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which protects the right to life, liberty and security of the person. 

Under the STCA, refugee claimants must claim protection in the first country in which they arrive in most cases.  The agreement assumes the US is a ‘safe’ country which upholds international human rights and the Refugee Convention.  

However, Justice Ann Marie McDonald found that refugee claimants returned under the STCA often face arbitrary immigration detention in conditions that “shock the conscience.” She recalled the case of Ms. Mustefa, a refugee claimant who was turned away by Canada under the STCA, only to be locked in solitary confinement in a freezing cold cell and given meals that she could not eat due to her religious beliefs. When Canadian officials return claimants to such conditions, they are complicit in that mistreatment. 

In spite of these clear human rights violations, the government has launched an appeal.  It’s crucial to let Members of Parliament and Minister Marco Mendicino know that it is unacceptable for any more refugee claimants to be returned under the STCA, given the clear risks of human rights violations. 

Canada must act immediately to distance its refugee policy from the US and end the Safe Third Country agreement so that refugees who turn to Canada for protection are able to do so. It must drop the appeal of the Federal Court decision.