OTTAWA – The federal Court of Canada has struck down on Wednesday an agreement on refugees between Canada and the United States, arguing that it violated a part of the canadian Charter of rights and freedoms.
In its decision, the court has given six months in Ottawa to redo his homework.
Under the Agreement on safe third country passed between Canada and the United States, a refugee arriving in one of these two countries must submit an application for asylum in the country in which it happened in the first.
The agreement obliges the canadian custom to expel the refugees from the United States who seek to enter legally to Canada to make a refugee claim, and vice-versa. Such a rule, however, only applies to migrants entering the country by border officials, which induces the putative refugees to enter Canada at other places, including the path Roxham at Lacolle.
Several organizations, including the canadian Council for refugees, are of the opinion that the United States may not be considered as a safe country. They have, therefore, referred the matter to the justice to that effect.
The agencies are of the opinion that not only the United States has never been a safe country for refugees, but they would be still less since the coming to power of the american president Donald Trump.
In its judgment, the federal Court did not want to focus on the quality of the american system. To justify the violation of the Charter, it stated that because of this agreement with the United States, applicants for refugee status are turned back at the canadian border are then incarcerated by the Americans in lieu of “penalty”.
“The punishment for a simple act to make a claim for refugee status does not correspond to the spirit or intent of the Agreement or the foundations of the convention on which it is based”, one can read in the judgment rendered in the English.
“The evidence clearly shows that these persons returned to the United States by canadian government officials are detained as punishment”, one reads in the decision of judge Ann Marie McDonald.
“In my opinion, the risk of detention for reasons of respect for “administrative” provisions of [the Agreement] may not be warranted. Canada can’t close a blind eye to the consequences,” wrote the magistrate.
Reacting to this judgment, the canadian Association of attorneys and lawyers in refugee law (ACAADR) spoke of “a stunning victory for the refugees”.
The Agreement on safe third country is in force since 2004.