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US-Canada asylum agreement invalidated by Canadian court

US-Canada asylum agreement invalidated by Canadian court
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A Canadian court Wednesday scrapped the country’s asylum agreement with the U.S., saying the pact violated constitutional guarantees of life, liberty and security. 

“I conclude that the provisions enacting the (safe third country agreement) infringe the guarantees in section 7 of the Charter,” Federal Court Justice Ann Marie McDonald wrote in her decision, noting the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom in Canada’s Constitution. “I have also concluded that the infringement is not justified under section 1 of the Charter.” 

McDonald delayed the implementation of her decision for six months, saying she wanted to provide the Canadian Parliament with time to respond.

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Under the agreement between Canada and the U.S., those seeking asylum in Canada who present themselves at ground ports of entry from the U.S. are returned to the U.S. However, if immigrants present themselves at any location other than an official crossing, they are allowed to seek asylum in Canada.

A lawsuit brought by Amnesty International, the Canadian Council for Refugees and the Canadian Council of Churches was first filed last year, claiming that the Canadian government could not guarantee asylum-seekers’ safety if they are returned to the U.S., citing the Trump administration’s detention of asylum-seekers whom Canada turns back and the separation of parents and children. 

The groups cheered the court’s decision, urging the Canadian government to “immediately” cease sending asylum-seekers to the U.S. 

“The Court could hardly fail to be moved by the testimonies of the appalling experiences of people in the US immigration detention system, after Canada closed the doors on them. Their experiences show us – and convinced the Court – that the U.S. cannot be considered a safe country for refugees,” said Canadian Council for Refugees President Dorota Blumczynska. 

“While the Federal Court has provided the government with six months leeway, it is imperative that Canada immediately end the return of claimants to the US,” added Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada. “The Safe Third Country Agreement has been the source of grave human rights violations for many years, unequivocally confirmed in this ruling.”

The Canadian government said it was aware of the decision and that the asylum pact remains in effect.

“Although the Federal Court has made its ruling, that decision does not come in effect until January 22nd 2021,” Mary-Liz Power, a spokesperson for Canada’s Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, said in a statement to The Associated Press. “The Safe Third Country Agreement remains in effect.”