Canadian Court Rules The U.S. Is No Longer “Safe” For Asylum Seekers

Screengrab / Associated Press / YouTube

PMH

Judge McDonald ruled that U.S. treatment of asylum seekers violates a treaty and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

BBC News reports that a Canadian federal court has ruled an asylum agreement held with the United States is invalid because America regularly violates asylum seekers’ rights.

  • Since 2004, the Canada–United States Safe Third Country Agreement has required refugee claimants to request protection in the first safe nation they reach.
  • Therefore, asylum seekers who arrive in the United States may not then seek asylum in Canada, and vice versa. This is meant to prevent “asylum shopping” between nations.
  • However, lawyers representing refugees have challenged this agreement, arguing that the United States does not constitute a “safe” country for claimants to seek asylum in.
  • For example, Nedira Jemal Mustefa, a refugee who was forced to remain in the United States rather than seek refuge in Canada, spoke of her experience as “terrifying, isolating and psychologically traumatic.”
  • Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers president Maureen Silcoff told Reuters, “We're all too familiar with the treatment that the U.S. metes out to asylum seekers.”
  • Since 2017, when American President Donald J. Trump took office and promised to crack down on immigration, some 58,000 claimants have crossed from the United States into Canada in order to make subsequent refugee claims.
  • Judge Ann Marie McDonald ruled in favor of the refugee claimants. She said that the Safe Third Country treaty violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Canada’s constitution due to the probability that the United States will imprison claimants.

She wrote,

I have concluded that imprisonment and the attendant consequences are inconsistent with the spirit and objective of the STCA and are a violation of the rights guaranteed by section 7 of the Charter

It is my conclusion, based upon the evidence, that ineligible STCA claimants are returned to the US by Canadian officials where they are immediately and automatically imprisoned by US authorities…

The penalization of the simple act of making a refugee claim is not in keeping with the spirit or the intention of the STCA or the foundational Conventions upon which it was built.

  • Judge McDonald has delayed her ruling for six months in order to provide the Canadian Parliament and American Congress with time to respond to her judgment.
  • A spokesperson for the Canadian Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness said to BBC News that they are “aware of the Federal Court's decision and are currently reviewing it.”
  • American immigration authorities have not yet commented at the time of writing.

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