Safe Third Country agreement ruling appealed

  • February 1, 2008

OTTAWA - It’s on to round two of the court battle between Canada’s refugee advocates and the federal government.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada will appeal a Federal Court decision which would have killed Canada’s Safe Third Country treaty with the United States on Feb. 1.

Justice Michael Phelan ruled Jan. 17 the United States does not meet international standards as a safe haven for refugees and is not complying with conventions against torture.

“The Governor-in-Council acted unreasonably in concluding that the United States of America complied with Article 33 of the Refugee Convention and Article 3 of the Convention Against Torture,” Phelan wrote in his decision.

Phelan also ruled the Safe Third Country agreement unjustifiably violated sections seven and 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Canadian Council for Refugees, Amnesty International and a Colombian refugee were the plaintiffs in the case.

The Safe Third Country agreement which Canada struck with the Americans in 2004 assumed a refugee would have reasonable access in both Canada and the United States to a fair, impartial refugee determination system which meets United Nations standards. In an attempt to prevent asylum shopping, the agreement required refugees to make their claim in the first country they land in.

Since the agreement was instituted Canada has seen a 40-per-cent decrease in the number of people making refugee claims at the border with the United States.

Until the Federal Court of Appeal hears the Government of Canada’s appeal the Safe Third Country agreement will remain in force.

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