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The Council of Canadians mourns Mavis Otuteye, renews call for Safe Third Country agreement to be scrapped

Mavis Otuteye

The Council of Canadians mourns the death of Mavis Otuteye and in the wake of the tragedy of her passing has renewed its call for the Trudeau government to rescind the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement.

The Globe and Mail reports, “When U.S. authorities found the body of Mavis Otuteye on Friday afternoon, she was in a ditch, about a kilometre from the Manitoba border. The 57-year-old Ghanaian woman had possibly succumbed to hypothermia since being reported missing in Kittson County, Minn., the day before. Authorities believe she was on her way to Canada. Her case, the first known death among a recent spate of asylum seekers entering Canada from the United States at unauthorized border crossings, has renewed calls for federal action to discourage migrants from making the dangerous journey.”

That article explains, “The Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the United States, signed in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, means that with few exceptions, refugee claimants must make their claim in the first safe country they arrive in. That means virtually all asylum seekers attempting to enter Canada through a U.S. port of entry will be turned away. But because Canada is a signatory of the United Nations’ 1951 Refugee Convention, asylum seekers entering the country between border points are not automatically deported and may make asylum claims.”

The Canadian Press adds, “There has been a spike in asylum seekers since the election of U.S. President Donald Trump. For the year so far, there have been 1,993 interceptions in Quebec, 477 in Manitoba and 233 in British Columbia.”

In Question Period today, NDP Member of Parliament Jenny Kwan stated, “Mr. Speaker, we have just seen one of the horrors of Canada’s so-called Safe Third Country Agreement with the U.S. How many more tragedies do we need to see before the government suspends the agreement?”

The CBC reports, “The federal government has made it clear it has no plans to suspend or cancel the agreement.”

Author-activist Harsha Walia says, “People don’t happen to die crossing borders. From the Mediterranean (over 1100 deaths this year alone) to Sonoran desert and now to the US-Canada border, border militarization policies make refugees and migrants journeys precarious and perilous. Mavis Otuteye should be here amongst us. Trudeau’s inaction and Canada’s border wall have killed Mavis Otuteye. rab rakha [may God protect you], Mavis Otuteye. not one more death!”

The Council of Canadians, Amnesty International, the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, the Canadian Council for Refugees, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, No One Is Illegal, the federal New Democratic Party, the federal Green Party, the Harvard Law School Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program, Canadian Lawyers for International Human Rights, more than 200 law professors, and many others have all called on Trudeau to suspend or scrap the agreement.

To add your voice, please go to our online action alert Welcome Refugees! Scrap the Safe Third Country Agreement.