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Tell Trudeau to rescind Safe Third Country agreement at March 7 cabinet meeting

Photo by Christinne Muschi/Reuters.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet will discuss the Canada-US Safe Third Country agreement on Tuesday March 7.

The Canadian Press reports, “Federal cabinet ministers are set for an in-depth discussion of the practical and political pressures being placed on the Liberal government by a rising number of asylum seekers in Canada. Border security, RCMP and immigration officials have been running scenarios to prepare for the possibility that a relative winter trickle of crossings into Canada could turn into a spring flood. The results of their table-top exercises will help form options being put before cabinet Tuesday.”

The article highlights, “Ministers will also consider whether there is room to alter the Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the U.S.”

The Council of Canadians has been calling on Trudeau through this online action alert to rescind the Safe Third Country Agreement.

The CBC has explained, “Under the agreement, which came into effect in 2004, individuals seeking protection must make a claim in the first country they arrive in — either Canada or the U.S. That requires Canada to send back to the U.S. any claimants entering Canada via its land border with the U.S., based on the premise that the U.S. is a safe country in which they can make their asylum claim.”

But, as The Globe and Mail explains, “Migrants who cross at open fields or other unguarded areas are not covered by the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement, and have the right to make a refugee claim in Canada.”

That provision is part of the reason we are seeing an increased number of refugees risking their lives in the cold and snow to cross into Canada unofficially.

This weekend, The Globe and Mail reported, “Asylum seekers [who are crossing into Canada by foot] are arrested as they enter [from the US], at which point the RCMP conducts checks to see if they were engaged in criminal acts such as trafficking. They [are then] transferred to the Canada Border Services Agency. So far this year, 435 people were arrested at the border by the RCMP before being transferred to the CBSA.”

The article adds, “A number of the recent claimants said they were fleeing a climate of intolerance in the United States and the threat of deportation stemming from U.S. President Donald Trump’s statements on illegal immigration. Canadian officials said large numbers of recent asylum seekers have come from Somalia, Djibouti and the Middle East, in addition to countries such as Romania. The largest increase in illegal border crossings has been seen in Quebec, although there have been dramatic stories of people crossing into Manitoba in frigid and life-threatening conditions.”

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 Harvard Law School Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program, and more than 200 law professors have called on Trudeau to scrap the agreement brought in by Liberal prime minister Paul Martin and US president George W. Bush.

But instead of scrapping the agreement, the RCMP has confirmed that the Trudeau government and the Trump administration have agreed on an “action plan which outlines a collaborative approach to dealing with the influx of asylum seekers.” That action plan has not been made public.

US Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly will also be meeting with Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale in Ottawa on Friday March 10 to discuss plans to address the issue of asylum seekers.

To tell Trudeau to agree to rescind the Safe Third Country agreement at the March 7 cabinet meeting, please go to our online action alert here now.