Slamming the Door

The Safe Third Country Agreement and US-Canada Relations

This report delves into the implications and effects of the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) for Canada, the legal challenges to the STCA, and the overall US-Canada diplomatic relations which deter Canada from rescinding the STCA.

Canada boasts a positive reputation amongst Western countries concerning its openness to migrants and the subsequent multiculturalism this brings. However, the government’s continued participation in the STCA brings into question how committed Canada truly is to the wellbeing and rights of asylum seekers.

The number of asylum seekers attempting to enter Canada at unofficial ports of entry has drastically increased from an estimated 2,500 people in 2018 to 54,739 asylum seekers in 2020. This increase is due to US government policies that endanger the health and safety of migrants.

Yet the Canadian government continues to uphold the STCA, most notably through its appeal of a court case brought forward by Amnesty International Canada, the Canadian Council of Churches, and the Canadian Council for Refugees. On this case, a Federal Court judge recently concluded that the provisions enacted in the STCA infringe the guarantees in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms therefore rendering it unconstitutional.

Canada and the US had different motivations in signing the STCA. The US implemented the STCA to enhance border security and counter-terrorism measures while Canada was motivated by the desire to reduce the number of asylum seekers entering Canada. Efforts from the Canadian government to make changes to the STCA may strain political relations with the US and consequently affect diplomatic relations.

The dignity of asylum seekers must be a primary priority for Canada. In order to live up to our reputation as an open and welcoming nation and respect the rights of asylum seekers, the Canadian government must drop its appeal against the Federal Court decision and rescind the STCA with the US.

Policy Recommendations

Together, CPJ and STAND Canada recommend that:

  • Canadian border agents give special attention to victims of sexual assault and gender persecution, recognizing that the US does not consider violence against women as a valid reason for an asylum claim.
  • Politicians and the media should refrain from mischaracterizing asylum seekers as “illegal” border crossers because such language criminalizes people fleeing persecution.
  • The Canadian government should respect the Canadian Federal Court ruling by Justice Ann Marie MacDonald and give a fair hearing to asylum seekers to ensure that they are not subjected to violations of their life, liberty, and security of the person through denial of entry into Canada under the STCA.
  • The Canadian government should drop the appeal against the Federal Court decision and rescind the STCA with the US.

Photo credit: Daniel Case/Creative Commons.

Slamming the Door
The Safe Third Country Agreement and US-Canada Relations

By Citizens for Public Justice, STAND Canada, and STAND USA

Published on 2020-12-06

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