Citing the harsh treatment of refugees under the American immigration system, a federal judge in Canada has invalidated an asylum agreement with the United States.
Judge Anne Marie McDonald ruled that the Safe Third Country Agreement, which directs refugees to seek shelter in the first safe nation they arrive in upon their departure from their home country, violates part of Canada’s Charter of Rights barring the government from impeding the right to life, liberty, and security.
Specifically, McDonald took issue with the way asylum seekers are “immediately and automatically imprisoned” by US officials upon arrival. Those who are rejected at the Canadian border in accordance with the agreement are subject to the American government’s treatment of refugees.
“Canada cannot turn a blind eye to the consequences… in its efforts to adhere to the [agreement],” McDonald said in her ruling. “The evidence clearly demonstrates that those returned to the US by Canadian officials are detained as a penalty.”
The ruling is not immediate, however. The judge delayed it for six months in order to give the US Congress and Canada’s Parliament an opportunity to respond.
The ruling was delivered weeks after the Trump administration proposed a rule seeking to significantly narrow the scope of consideration for asylum claims in such a way that would limit the amount of refugees entering the country.
Civil rights advocates in Canada increasingly called for changes to the Safe Third Country Agreement following the Trump administration’s 2017 executive order that was known as a “Muslim ban” due to the way it restricted travel to the United States from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. The Trump administration’s family separation policy similarly drew widespread international condemnation.
The future outlook for refugees arriving in the US hinges in part on the looming presidential election and the possibility of another four years under Trump. A task force consisting of those representing the teams of former Vice President Joe Biden and US Senator Bernie Sanders has recommended that Biden toss all discriminatory travel bans, end family separation, explore community-based alternatives to detention centers, and take in refugees fleeing anti-LGBTQ countries or abusive situations.
To sign up for the Gay City News email newsletter, visit gaycitynews.com/newsletter.