Safe Third Country fight still on

  • October 3, 2008
{mosimage}OTTAWA - Though they decided to appeal to the Supreme Court a month ago, the Canadian Council for Refugees , Canadian Council of Churches and Amnesty International made it official in their battle against the Safe Third Country agreement with the United States.

On Sept. 26 the refugee advocate organizations filed an application with Canada’s highest court seeking one more chance to strike down the agreement.
The three organizations began their legal battle against the Canada-U.S. treaty on refugees in 2005.

In 2006 Federal Court Justice Michael Phelan ruled that the United States was not in fact a safe country for all refugee claimants because the American refugee determination system fails to live up to United Nations conventions on refugees and on torture.

That decision was overturned by the Federal Court of Appeal, but the higher court did not argue with Phelan’s finding. The appeal court concluded “that the U.S. does not ‛actually’ comply is irrelevant.”

The Safe Third Country agreement between Canada and the United States stipulates that refugees who arrive first in the United States must make a refugee claim there and may not make a Canadian refugee claim at the land borders between two nations.

In their appeal to the Supreme Court the trio of refugee rights organizations will argue that the Court of Appeal wrongly failed to address Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and international human rights issues.

It will also argue that the court allows the federal cabinet to designate any country as safe for refugees regardless of actual human rights violations and incorrectly concluded that individual refugees could legally challenge a decision to turn them back at the border.

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