On Friday 23 October 2020, the Federal Court of Appeal will hear arguments on the Canadian government’s request to stay the decision finding that Canada is violating the rights of refugee claimants it returns to the U.S. under the Safe Third Country Agreement. The July Federal Court decision is otherwise due to take effect in January 2021.
The Canadian Council for Refugees, Amnesty International and The Canadian Council of Churches, alongside the individual litigants, are arguing that the stay application must be rejected.
“Every day that the rules remain in effect, more people risk being returned to imprisonment in the US and possible return to persecution,” said Dorota Blumczynska, CCR President. “After seeing overwhelming evidence, including the testimonies of the appalling experiences of people in the US immigration detention system, the Federal Court concluded that the conditions in US detention ‘shock the conscience’. We must stop sending people to face these intolerable abuses.”
“For the second time, the Federal Court has found that the Canadian law implementing the Safe Third Country Agreement is unconstitutional,” said Justin Mohammed, Human Rights Law and Policy Campaigner at Amnesty International Canada. “While the court gave Parliament six months to remedy the law, the government has squandered that opportunity in favour of an appeal. We are hopeful that the Federal Court of Appeal will affirm the deadline, so that no refugee protection claimant will be handed over by Canada to face the horrors of US immigration detention past January 2021.”
“The principles of justice in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms must be upheld. The court has directed that the best way to achieve that is for the US-Canada Safe Third Country Agreement to be set aside so that refugee claimants can apply at regular border crossings and be given a hearing. We are our sister’s and our brother’s keeper,” said Pastor Peter Noteboom, General Secretary for The Canadian Council of Churches.
The organizations are arguing that:
- The government has failed to show that it would suffer irreparable harm if the Safe Third Country Agreement ceased to be in effect in January. The government’s assertion that the Canadian refugee system would be overwhelmed is based on speculation and ignores the reality that all travel and therefore refugee claim numbers are dramatically down because of the pandemic.
- It is strongly in the public interest to cease applying rules that the Court has determined violate the rights to liberty and security of the person under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
- As long as the rules are in place, refugee claimants returned to the U.S. face detention by default, in worsening conditions and with increasing barriers to protection.
For more information, see backgrounder.
Janet Dench, Executive Director, Canadian Council for Refugees, 514-598-1524, firstname.lastname@example.org
Lucy Scholey, Media Relations, Amnesty International Canada (English branch), 613-744-7667 ext. 236, email@example.com
Dr. Nicole Roccas, Communications Coordinator, The Canadian Council of Churches, 416-972-9494 (preferred), firstname.lastname@example.org