Skip to content

US Homeland Security Secretary to visit Ottawa to discuss plan to tackle asylum seekers

US President Donald Trump and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.

The Council of Canadians has been calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to rescind the Canada-US 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.”

The Globe and Mail further 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.

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.”

Reuters now reports, “Canadian and U.S. officials are working on a plan to tackle asylum seekers crossing into Canada illegally, with American officials keen to discover how they entered the United States in the first place, said a source familiar with the matter.”

The article adds, “Canadian and U.S. officials speak daily about the border crossers and law enforcement agencies from both nations met in Montreal last month to plot strategies, the source said. The summit grouped representatives from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Canada Border Services Agency, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency. The U.S. side asked Canada to provide details of the asylum seekers, in particular, how they had entered the United States and what their status was there.”

On February 25, CTV reported, “Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale spokesperson Scott Bardsley told CTV News that Goodale has a meeting with Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly in the coming weeks. He said the number of people illegally crossing the border on foot into Canada will be one of the topics Goodale plans to bring up at the meeting. Bardsley couldn’t confirm a date for the meeting, but said it would be taking place in the ‘near future’.”

Tonight, Reuters reports, “U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly is set to visit the Canadian capital Ottawa early this month for talks on the border and the influx of people, said the source, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.”

To tell the Trudeau government to immediately rescind the Safe Third Country agreement, please go to our online action alert here.

To read numerous campaign blogs on this issue, please click here.