Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement, explained


The Supreme Court docket of Canada is ready to listen to a case introduced by a number of human rights organizations searching for to overturn an 18-year settlement on asylum seekers between Canada and the U.S.

The Secure Third Nation Settlement (STCA) permits Canada to show away asylum seekers searching for entry from the U.S. at official land border crossings. Nonetheless, human rights teams argue the U.S. will not be a “protected nation” for asylum seekers and the pact permits Canada to skirt its worldwide obligations for refugee claimants. breaks down what the settlement entails.


The Canada-U.S. Secure Third Nation Settlement was signed in 2002 and got here into impact in 2004. Beneath the settlement, these searching for refugee standing in both Canada or the U.S. should make their declare within the first nation they enter.

Meaning most asylum seekers who try and cross into Canada at an official crossing are turned away and are informed they should make their asylum declare within the U.S., and vice versa. The one exemptions apply to unaccompanied minors and people with shut relations residing in Canada.

“If a type of slim exemptions doesn’t apply, you are not capable of make a declare for refugee safety in Canada. And so what which means is that you simply’re ordered to be eliminated or deported, they usually contact U.S. authorities,” Amnesty Worldwide’s Julia Sande informed CTV’s Your Morning on Thursday.

However the settlement has one key loophole: it solely applies to official land border crossings. That implies that asylum seekers who handle to make a refugee declare inside Canada whereas bypassing an official border crossing will not be despatched again to the U.S.

This has prompted tens of 1000’s of asylum seekers to enter Canada at irregular crossings, similar to Roxham Street, a rural highway that goes via the border between Quebec and New York State.


Since February 2017, Canada has seen 67,805 irregular crossers enter the nation. Of those, 28,332 (41 per cent) have had their refugee claims authorized. As well as, 19,646 refugee claims have been rejected, 13,369 are nonetheless pending and the remainder have both been withdrawn or deserted, in line with the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB).

Irregular crossings into Canada surged after Donald Trump grew to become president of the USA in 2017, as issues grew over his anti-immigration rhetoric and government orders limiting the variety of refugees admitted.

Based on knowledge from the IRB, the variety of irregular crossings peaked between July and September 2017. Throughout this time interval, 8,558 asylum seekers irregularly crossed into Canada, similar to a median of two,853 per thirty days.

The typical variety of irregular crossers per thirty days dipped after that and hovered between 1,200 and 1,400 from late 2018 to early 2020. Nonetheless, irregular crossings got here to a close to screeching halt after COVID-19 restrictions on the border have been put in place in March 2020 and asylum seekers have been despatched again to the U.S. except they met one of many exemptions.

In November 2021, as Canada continued lifting COVID-19 measures on the border, irregular crossers have been as soon as once more allowed to enter the nation and make a declare. Between April and June 2022, 4,512 irregular crossers entered Canada — probably the most seen since 2019, in line with the IRB.


The present courtroom case dates again to 2017, when Amnesty Worldwide, the Canadian Council for Refugees, and the Canadian Council of Church buildings launched a lawsuit difficult the constitutionality of the Secure Third Nation Settlement.

The organizations argue the laws underpinning the STCA violates Part 7 of the Constitution of Rights and Freedoms, which ensures life, liberty and safety of the particular person, along with Part 15, which ensures equal safety and profit beneath the regulation. Sande says asylum seekers who’re turned again from Canada typically face immigration detention within the U.S.

“When individuals are in detention, they’re subjected to solitary confinement, staggering charges of sexual violence, actually inhumane circumstances, not given religiously applicable meals,” she mentioned. “The detention in itself is problematic and dangerous. However as well as, once you’re in detention, it is much more troublesome to entry counsel.”

Sande says the elevated issue accessing authorized counsel means asylum seekers have the next likelihood of being deported. On prime of that, she mentioned crossing the border at irregular crossings can include critical dangers.

Many of those crossers use Roxham Street, the place the RCMP have arrange a presence to deal with the excessive quantity of asylum seekers. However at different elements of the border, some asylum seekers have made lengthy journeys on foot via empty farm fields within the winter, risking frostbite.

“We have heard of individuals dropping fingers from frostbite and actually placing themselves in danger. And so I might say it is neither compassionate nor orderly,” Sande mentioned.

Canada can be topic to the 1951 Refugee Conference, which stipulates that states can not return refugees to harmful international locations. The human rights teams argue the pact lets Canada “contract out” its worldwide obligations to refugee claimants with out correct followup the U.S. is doing the job.

In July 2020, the Federal Court docket agreed, and dominated the Secure Third Nation Settlement was unconstitutional. The federal authorities appealed the ruling and final December, the Supreme Court docket introduced that it might hear the case.


The NDP and the Bloc Quebecois have lengthy known as on the federal authorities to droop the Secure Third Nation Settlement, and permit asylum seekers to cross into Canada at official crossings so they will not need to make doubtlessly harmful journeys via irregular crossings.

In the meantime, the Conservatives say the STCA must be strengthened to permit Canada to ship irregular crossers again to the U.S.

The three opposition events additionally lately signed a letter calling for an inquiry taking a look at how public funds have been used to construct consumption services on the border close to Roxham Street.

Within the Home of Commons on Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau mentioned Canada “works with the U.S. authorities on daily basis to enhance the Secure Third Nation Settlement.” Immigration, Refugees & Citizenship Canada (IRCC) informed CTV’s Your Morning the settlement “has served Canada effectively” and is critical to make sure that the border “stays well-managed.”

“Canada believes that the STCA stays a complete means for the compassionate, truthful and orderly dealing with of asylum claims in our two international locations,” IRCC mentioned in an e mail assertion.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault has additionally known as on the feds to shut the unofficial Roxham Street crossing and mentioned his authorities doesn’t have the capability to take care of the inflow of individuals. Public Security Minister Marco Mendicino mentioned on Thursday the federal government is working “very fastidiously with Quebec” to handle the circulate of asylum seekers.

“We switch important federal funds to that province yearly to assist with guaranteeing that there’s due course of, that there… is a baseline of assist for people who find themselves submitting claims,” he informed reporters earlier than a cupboard assembly in Ottawa.

“We now have to succeed in agreements, with partnerships with the USA, with Quebec, and that is precisely what the federal authorities will do,” he added in French.

With recordsdata from The Canadian Press


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