U.S. border officers at the Peace Arch crossing arrested two men on California warrants this week. (File photo)

U.S. border officers at the Peace Arch crossing arrested two men on California warrants this week. (File photo)

Ottawa predicts system delays, backlogs unless court extends life of refugee pact

Canada and the United States recognize each other as safe places to seek protection

The Trudeau government says there will be upheaval at the Canada-U. S. border early next year if a refugee pact between the two countries is allowed to expire.

Federal lawyers are asking the Federal Court of Appeal to stay a July ruling that struck down the Safe Third Country Agreement but left it in effect until mid-January.

Under the refugee agreement, which took effect in 2004, Canada and the United States recognize each other as safe places to seek protection.

It means Canada can turn back potential refugees who arrive at land ports of entry along the border on the basis they must pursue their claims in the U.S., the country where they first arrived.

Ottawa is appealing the Federal Court ruling that nixed the agreement, and will argue in a hearing this morning that the Appeal Court should pause the decision until the full challenge is resolved.

Refugee claimants and their advocates say the federal application for a stay must be rejected, given that a judge found the bilateral agreement violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In a submission to the Court of Appeal, federal lawyers say the absence of the agreement would serve as “a pull factor” attracting people to make a claim for protection in Canada.

“This will impact all types of port of entry operations and result in significant delays for persons making refugee claims at the land port of entry,” the government submission states.

Suspension of the agreement could also “create negative ripple effects and backlogs” in the overall immigration and refugee system, the government argues.

“This could undermine the ability of Canada’s refugee protection system to determine claims and offer protection in a timely manner to those who have not had the benefit of accessing an asylum process in another safe country.”

Canadian refugee advocates have vigorously fought the asylum agreement, arguing the U.S. is not always a safe country for people fleeing persecution.

Several refugee claimants took the case to court along with the Canadian Council for Refugees, the Canadian Council of Churches and Amnesty International, who participated in the proceedings as public interest parties.

In each case the applicants, who are citizens of El Salvador, Ethiopia and Syria, arrived at a Canadian land entry port from the U.S. and sought refugee protection.

They argued in court that by returning ineligible refugee claimants to the U.S., Canada exposes them to risks in the form of detention and other rights violations.

In her decision, Federal Court Justice Ann Marie McDonald concluded the Safe Third Country Agreement results in ineligible claimants being imprisoned by U.S. authorities.

Detention and the consequences flowing from it are “inconsistent with the spirit and objective” of the refugee agreement and amount to a violation of the rights guaranteed by Section 7 of the charter, she wrote.

“The evidence clearly demonstrates that those returned to the U.S. by Canadian officials are detained as a penalty.”

In their submission to the Court of Appeal, the refugees and their advocates say the government has failed to show that it would suffer irreparable harm if the agreement expires in January.

They contend the government’s assertion that the Canadian refugee system would be overwhelmed is based on speculation and ignores the reality that all travel, and therefore refugee claim numbers, are dramatically down because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

federal government

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Neskonlith band councillor Cora Anthony, Switzmalph Child Care Centre manager Crystal Cox and Neskonlith councillor Louis Thomas pause on Nov. 27 for a photo outside the centre at 4501 First Ave. SW, newly opened in October. 
(Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)
VIDEO: Switzmalph Child Care Centre shares culture with Salmon Arm community

New daycare offers Secw├ępemc culturally enriched programs to children of all heritages

The speed humps the City of Salmon Arm installed on Okanagan Avenue behind city hall appear to be working, report city staff. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)
Speed humps near Salmon Arm’s Fletcher Park considered a success

City staff say traffic has slowed accordingly, visibility will improve when street light replaced

An Enderby restaurant and pub was shut down Sunday afternoon, Nov. 29, 2020 as a precaution after a guest reportedly tested positive for COVID-19. (Howard Johnson photo)
Enderby pub reopens after COVID-19 scare

After a guest reportedly tested positive for the virus, staff test results came back negative

As the deadline draws closer for the distribution of Christmas hampers, the Salvation Army in Salmon Arm is concerned that it has not received enough applications yet and people will be going without. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)
Time running out for people in Salmon Arm to apply for hampers

Salvation Army urges residents to make appointments right away to get help with food at Christmas

A laboratory technician holds a dose of a COVID-19 novel coronavirus vaccine candidate that’s ready for trial on monkeys at the National Primate Research Center of Thailand. (Mladen Antonov - AFP)
Interior Health reports 66 new COVID-19 infections

570 cases are active; 18 in hospital

(Google Maps)
Osoyoos Credit Union staff member tests positive for COVID-19

The credit union made the announcement Dec. 1

Alix Longland
Trauma resources ready for North Okanagan refugees

Family Resource Centre working with UBCO social work grad to reach out to local refugees

Elkhart Gas Station, located on Highway 97C about 60 kilometres west of Peachland, opened in November 2020. (Google maps)
The Okanagan Connector now has a gas station

The highway previously ran for over 117 kilometres without a place to fuel up

The Hughes’ Grinch was stolen from their front yard Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2020. The Santa suit the Grinch is wearing is 50 years old and has sentimental value. It was once worn by April Hughes’ dad. (Hughes photo)
Grinch stolen from Penticton home is ‘irreplaceable’

The Hughes have had a Christmas display for 25 years on Grandy Avenue in Penticton

Midway RCMP’s Cpl. Phil Peters spoke at Greenwood’s city council meeting Monday, Nov. 23. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
B.C. Mountie builds fire to warm suspect with hypothermia prior to rescue

Cpl. Phil Peters said the civilian helped police track, apprehend and eventually rescue the suspect

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Revelstoke COVID-19 cluster linked to non-essential travel: Horgan

There have been 46 cases of COVID-19 in the community

Students at Lavington Elementary crammed a car full of non-perishables for those in the community facing food insecurity. Spearheaded by teacher January Peebles (left), the donations were picked up by Give LUCK founder Myrika Godard, who works to connect donors with donees in the North Okanagan. (Give LUCK photo)
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation at the legislature, Nov. 30, 2020. (B.C. government)
Hockey team brought COVID-19 back from Alberta, B.C. doctor says

Dr. Bonnie Henry pleads for out-of-province travel to stop

Most Read