On Feb 5, 2017 Macleans published this opinion piece. International human rights lawyer David Matas on why Canada must suspend the Safe Third Country refugee agreement with the U.S.
Canada should suspend its Safe Third Country agreement with the U.S. That agreement allocates refugee determination of every refugee claim to either the U.S. or Canada. Its basic principle is that a claim has to be made in the country of first arrival.
According to the agreement, a refugee claimant who passes through the U.S. to Canada can be returned to the U.S. for the determination of the claim, and the U.S. must accept that person. Canada has enacted that agreement into law and systematically returns asylum seekers coming from the U.S. back to the U.S. The legislation is tied to the existence of the agreement. If the agreement were suspended, the legislation about return to the U.S. would be automatically suspended also.
There are some exceptions to the agreement. One is that it applies only to those who appear at ports of entry, and not those who cross the border illegally and show up inland. The arrival and behaviour of Donald Trump as President of the United States has led to a flare up of these illegal crossings, even in the dead of winter, even in the coldest parts of the country.
While this exception is a safety valve, we should not be encouraging illegal crossings. It is hazardous for the refugees. It is also an arbitrary form of self-selection, favouring single young males, and disadvantaging in particular the elderly and women with young children.
The Safe Third Country Agreement no longer lives up to its name. Trump has made the U.S. unsafe for asylum seekers.