Reclaiming Protection

By Citizens for Public Justice

Advocating for an end to the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement

June 2018
Download the full resource (PDF)

A large number of refugee claimants who have arrived in Canada from the U.S. throughout the past year. The Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) allows the Canada Border Services Agency to return refugee claimants to the U.S. under the premise that refugees should make their claim in the first “safe” country in which they arrive. According to the Government of Canada, “Only countries that respect human rights and offer a high degree of protection to asylum seekers may be designated as safe third countries.”

There is much reason to believe that these standards are no longer upheld in the U.S. On June 5, 2018, the UN Human Rights Office raised concern over the separation of migrant children from their families by U.S. border officials. On June 11, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that domestic and gang violence would no longer qualify as grounds for asylum in the U.S., a decision that will have sweeping effects, particularly on refugee women affected by gender-based violence. Additionally, the Trump Administration recently suggested designating Mexico as a safe third country, yet overwhelmingly, evidence demonstrates significant gaps in Mexico’s asylum system.

This report details how the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement has restricted access to refugee protection, put refugees in danger, and failed to uphold their rights to receive a fair hearing in Canada.


Pages 3-5 provide background on the STCA. Learn about the scale of the current international refugee crisis and increasingly anti-refugee policies from the current U.S. administration that have made the country unsafe for many refugees.


Pages 6-8 showcase the first-hand experiences of several refugee claimants and explain some of the harsh conditions in their countries of origin. Explore how the STCA has impacted real people in search of safety.


Pages 9-12 provide guidance to advocate for a just approach to refugee protection in Canada. Call for a compassionate, realistic, and proactive policy response to best meet the increased needs of refugees from around the world.

Raise your voice to see the Safe Third Country Agreement rescinded once and for all.

Download the full resource (PDF)

Download the 6-page summary (PDF)

Download the draft letter (DOC)

Ask the government to uphold the rights of refugees and:

[accordion openfirst=”true” tag=h3 clicktoclose=”true”][accordion-item title=”Refuse to mischaracterize refugee claimants as ‘illegal’ border crossers”]
Some Members of Parliament have described refugee claimants as “illegals,” which has served to create public discord and unwarranted fear. This has also created a public narrative that falsely conflates seeking refugee protection with criminality. Considering the platforms of these individuals, it is paramount that they not spread misinformation about such a vulnerable population.

[/accordion-item][accordion-item title=”Restore access to refugee protection at the Canada-U.S. border” state=closed]
Because of the Safe Third Country Agreement, only refugee claimants that meet a narrow set of exceptions can make a claim at an official border point. As a result, a majority of claimants have no choice but to enter Canada between Ports of Entry in order to apply for protection, often at great risk to themselves. By allowing refugee claimants to make their claims directly at the border, Canada can restore a sense of safety and dignity for refugees.

[/accordion-item][accordion-item title=”Rescind the Safe Third Country Agreement with the U.S.” state=closed]
By rescinding the STCA, Canada will allow refugees from the U.S. to once again have access to protection in Canada. This will greatly reduce irregular border crossings, restore public confidence in Canada’s refugee system, and uphold the rights of each individual refugee. Considering the more than 25.4 million refugees around the world today, Canada must do its part to respond to growing global demands for refugee protection.

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