Letter: Reconsider Safe Third Country Agreement

By Citizens for Public Justice

CPJ has joined other Canadian human rights organizations to urge Ahmed Hussen, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship, to reconsider Canada’s Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States. In a letter addressed to the Minister, CPJ noted that recent restrictive refugee-related policies in the United States threaten Canada’s confidence in the US as a safe third country for refugees.

CPJ has long believed that the Safe Third Country Agreement conflicts with Canada’s position on non-discrimination and equality. We also believe the United States’ new immigration policy discriminates against refugees on a religious and national identity basis.

Canada can no longer depend on the United States to provide refugee claimants with a fair hearing on their asylum cases. And so, we urge Minister Hussen to ensure that the government uphold Canadian values and give each refugee claimant the fairness they deserves.


February 1, 2017

Dear Minister Hussen,

Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ) writes today to ask that you reconsider Canada’s Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States, in light of policy developments that deny refugees the right to a fair resettlement process.

CPJ promotes public justice in Canada by shaping key public policy debates through research and analysis, publishing and public dialogue. CPJ encourages citizens, leaders in society and governments to support policies and practices which reflect God’s call for love, justice, and environmental flourishing.

Canada signed the Safe Third Country Agreement at a time when the United States government stood firm on its humanitarian obligations to those in flight from terror and persecution. Our government had confidence that the United States would treat all refugees fairly. Today, we cannot rely on the United States to provide a fair hearing to refugee claimants before they arrive in Canada.

Refugees in the United States are now faced with huge uncertainties. President Donald Trump signed executive orders that restrict the resettlement of refugees in the country. One such order indefinitely bars Syrian refugees from entering the United States. At a time when our world still reels from the horrors of the Syrian crisis, it is wrong to close our borders to children, mothers, and fathers whose lives remain in peril.

CPJ has long felt that the Safe Third Country Agreement contradicts Canadian values of non-discrimination based on “race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability”, as contained in Section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We believe the United States’ new immigration policy discriminates on the basis of national origin and religion. Imposing a travel ban on Muslim-majority countries, and barring Syrian refugees, are actions that contradict our welcoming stance towards refugees.

Prime Minister Trudeau has offered refugees safety in Canada. We urge you to give all asylum seekers fair consideration. Canada must not turn asylum seekers away without treating each case fairly, according to our commitments under the UN Refugee Convention – this Agreement with the United States notwithstanding.

CPJ is proud of the leading role our country has taken on refugee resettlement and support. However, we must ensure that our response to these current trends does not threaten our most-cherished values and international human rights commitments.

We thank you very much for your time and consideration of this matter. We look forward to a reply at your early convenience.


(Rev.) James C. Dekker
Chairman of the Board

Photo Credit: Flickr/Cohen.Canada


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