U.S. Asylum Agreement Ruled Unconstitutional by Federal Court of Canada
In a landmark ruling released today, the Federal Court of Canada has ruled that it is unconstitutional for the U.S. and Canada to stop potential asylum seekers from attempting to enter either country at official border crossings.
In her judgment, Justice Ann MacDonald cited the U.S. government’s treatment of asylum seekers and the Canadian government’s complicity in such treatment through the Safe Third Country Agreement. Justice MacDonald stated that because ineligible claimants are returned to the U.S. by Canadian officials and then potentially jailed by U.S. officials, it immediately infringes upon the would-be refugees’ rights to liberty and personal security, both of which are protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“The evidence demonstrates that the immediate consequence to ineligible STCA claimants is that they will be imprisoned solely for having attempted to make a refugee claim in Canada,” said McDonald in her 62-page decision.
More than 50,000 asylum seekers have come to Canada via the U.S. over the past two years. Once on Canadian soil and after passing initial medical and security screenings, refugees can work and access health care pending a decision on their asylum claims. However, in ruling the bilateral Safe Third Country Agreement a breach of the Canadian charter and stating refugees would be unsafe in the U.S., the court has given the Canadian government six months to respond and fix the policy before declaring the Agreement invalid.
Written by Jeremy Power, a lawyer practicing in our Toronto office.
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