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Chilliwack chapter encourages e-mails prior to debate on Safe Third Country agreement

House of Commons emergency debate on immigration and refugee issues, January 31.

The Council of Canadians Chilliwack chapter encouraged its e-mail list contacts to take action earlier this week just prior to a debate in the House of Commons on responding to US President Donald Trump’s executive orders on travel.

Members of Parliament held an emergency debate on Tuesday (January 31) on the implications of Trump’s 120-day ban on all refugees entering the US and his 90-day ban on all immigration from seven countries, including Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Somalia and Yemen.

Chapter activist Suzy Coulter highlighted, “I am deeply concerned about the increasing xenophobia, racism and all related manifestations taking hold in our communities, and looking for concrete actions to take to address my concerns. So thought I’d send out this action request. There is an emergency debate in parliament on the question of rescinding the Safe Third Country Agreement. Please consider e-mailing our MP immediately to voice your concerns.”

In 2005, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow wrote, “The Smart Border Accord includes a Safe Third Country agreement, which requires Canada to turn back refugee claimants who have arrived at our border via the United States. The agreement is ostensibly based on the principle that refugees must claim refuge in the first country they reach as long as that country is ‘safe’ for them. But it is really based on strong pressure from the Bush White House, which views refugees as a security problem, to create a seamless North American refugee system, with the terms and conditions set in Washington.”

At that time Barlow highlighted, “The Safe Third Country agreement violates refugee rights established in Canada twenty years ago. The Supreme Court declared that refugee claimants in Canada are entitled to basic rights, including the right to an oral hearing before being denied entry. Close to twelve thousand refugee claimants a year have passed through the United States to come to Canada in the last few years. In the first six months that the law was in effect, the number of refugee claimants arriving in Canada was about half the average.”

These concerns have only intensified under Trump.

Toronto Star national affairs columnist Thomas Walkom has written, “If the Trudeau government truly believes the US under Trump has become anti-refugee, suspending this agreement and allowing more to apply for asylum at the border would be a practical way to help.”

The NDP and Green Party have also called on the Liberal government to rescind the Safe Third Country agreement, lift the cap of 1,000 applications for privately sponsored refugees which has already been reached this year, and fast-track refugee applications approved or nearly completed by the United States before Trump’s ban.

The Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship has refused these requests.

Xinhua reports, “Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been careful not to push back too hard against the US President’s policy. As he reminded the House on Tuesday, his government has the dual role of ‘protecting Canadian jobs and growing the economy’, while ‘standing up for Canadian values and principles’.”

Walkom notes, “Some advise that the Canadian government do nothing that might give Trump offence. They fear that if Canada comes under the president’s malign gaze, he might punish us by, for instance, driving an unusually hard bargain in the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement. This view, I suspect, does Trump an injustice. He will almost certainly drive an impossibly hard bargain on NAFTA no matter what. Sucking up won’t help. Indeed, the Trudeau government would be well advised to quietly start preparing Plan B — for a world without NAFTA in which tariff-free trade between Canada and the U.S. does not exist.”

Trudeau is reportedly scheduled to meet with Trump in Washington in late-February, the Mexican economy minister now says NAFTA negotiations will begin in early-May, and a ‘Three Amigos’ North American Leaders Summit is also expected to take place in the US in the coming months.