The Safe Third Country Agreement reviewed by the Supreme Court of Canada

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The Safe Third Country Agreement reviewed by the Supreme Court of Canada

Oral arguments on the constitutionality of the Safe Countries Agreement are to be heard by the Supreme Court on Thursday.

The Supreme Court of Canada on Thursday heard arguments from multiple parties in a challenge to the Safe Third Country Agreement, which is at the heart of irregular migrant crossings through Roxham Road.

Each of the claimants was turned away after arriving in Canada through an official border crossing from the United States for the purpose of seeking asylum.

These are from El Salvador, Ethiopia and Syria and did not pass through the makeshift passage of Roxham Road, located in Montérégie, near Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle.

The migrants believe that their removal put them at risk of detention and other violations of their rights. Their lawyers believe that the Safe Third Country Agreement violates section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which guarantees the right to life, liberty and security of the person. /p>

During Thursday's Supreme Court hearing, a lawyer for the Canadian Council for Refugees argued that the risk of imprisonment is sufficient to conclude x27;unconstitutionality.

We say there is default detention, said Mr. Andrew J. Brouwer.

When the judges asked him if it was automatic for returned migrants to be detained, he replied that it was irrelevant to make this determination to find a violation of Article 7.< /p>

What does the data show? notably launched judge Russell Brown. Judge Malcom Rowe posed the same question over and over again.

It is risk that implies freedom. This does not require that all deported persons […] be detained, argued Mr. Brouwer.

Judge Suzanne Côté also joined in, saying that only one of the asylum seekers involved in the case considered by the Court was detained in the United States.

“The evidence [points to] a robust detention regime in the United States that includes the right to consult an attorney. I understand your point that [asylum seekers] are deported immediately, but they are not deported in a vacuum. »

— Suzanne Côté, judge

Me Brouwer clarified that asylum seekers involved in this case who have not been detained do not x27;were not because they were eventually able to get permission to stay in Canada from the Federal Court.

A lawyer defending the Departments of Immigration and Public Safety, Me Marianne Zoric, argued that rejected applicants have access to a fair and equitable procedure in the United States.

She argued that as the Federal Court has granted leave to remain in the country, even temporarily, it demonstrates that rejected asylum seekers are not without recourse.

The Court acted [quickly]. They were ready to intervene, Zoric said.

The representative of the Department of Justice also explained that if migrants returned to the United States are detained, it is not the result of Canadian law. She pointed out that their immigration status in the United States does not change during their brief stay in Canada.

The Supreme Court of Canada heard arguments from multiple parties in the challenge to the Safe Third Country Agreement, which is at the heart of the irregular crossings on Roxham Road. (archives)

The Safe Third Country Agreement ensures that a potential refugee arriving at an official Canadian border crossing and having first set foot on American soil is turned back since he must pursue his asylum application in the first place of safety where he arrived.

Thus, people who still wish to seek asylum in Canada cross the Canada-US border through makeshift crossings, such as Roxham Road in Montérégie. Once they are in Canada, their refugee claim can be processed.

The issue recently resurfaced in the news, when Radio-Canada reported that the federal government spent more than half a billion dollars in public funds related to Roxham Road. The impressive sum was used to reimburse costs assumed by Quebec and to pay suppliers of facilities, such as trailers.

Bloquateurs and New Democrats have long been asking the suspension of the Safe Third Country Agreement. Justin Trudeau's Liberals instead plead for a modernization of the agreement and assure that they are negotiating in this direction with the Americans.

“Obviously we have concerns about the deal. We will always ensure that our principles and values ​​regarding immigration and human rights are respected. ”

— Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

The prime minister said on his way to a cabinet meeting that Ottawa relies on the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to verify compliance with the rights of returned migrants.

Thursday, the nine Supreme Court justices heard from numerous interveners during the hearing, including the National Council of Canadian Muslims. They have taken the matter under advisement and will therefore render a decision at a later date.

Refugee advocacy groups have long opposed the Refugee Agreement. safe third countries alleging that the United States is not always a safe place for people fleeing persecution.

In a 2020 decision, Federal Court Judge Ann Marie McDonald found that the settlement had the effect of sentencing the plaintiffs found ineligible to prison in the United States.

Justice McDonald wrote that the detention and its consequences are inconsistent with the spirit of the law and its purpose. It considers this to be a violation of section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Federal Court of #x27;However, overturned this decision last year.

According to the appeals court, the constitutional fault is caused by the way the authorities interpret the application of the agreement and not of the agreement itself.

The court adds that since the plaintiffs do not attack the faulty behavior of the authorities, it does not have the evidence necessary to rule.

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