A number of refugee advocates, including a victim of sexual assault at the hands of MS-13, are taking the government to court over the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA).
The 2004 law disallows asylum seekers from making claims at official border crossings in Canada because the U.S. is deemed a safe country.
Since 2017, approximately 45,517 illegal border crossers have taken advantage of a loophole in the law and walked into Canada in between official border crossings.
The group will argue that the border agreement is unconstitutional because failed asylum claimants may face “detention and mistreatment” in the U.S. They are seeking to have the law suspended.
Several refugee claimants along with the Canadian Council for Refugees, Amnesty International and the Canadian Council of Churches are involved in the constitutional challenge.
Despite the claims brought forward by the challenge, the U.S. is considered a safe country for refugees by international standards. The Canadian government has also re-iterated that it will not amend its neighbour’s status as a safe country.
“The United States remains a country governed by the rule of law, and by the branches of the executive, legislative and judiciary, while also subscribing to international conventions on refugees and on torture,” said Marie-Emmanuel, the press secretary for the Minister of Border Security Bill Blair.
A 2017 review of the status by immigration officials determined that the U.S. continues to meet all international obligations with regards to refugees and asylum seekers.
The Conservatives have called on the government to re-negotiate the agreement in order to close the loophole allowing illegal entry into the country. Currently, the Canadian government and its U.S. counterparts are involved in ongoing talks with regards to amending the law.
Illegal border crossers who enter into Canada are detained upon entry and undergo preliminary security screenings, some of which take as little as two hours. The influx of illegal migrants has led the Auditor General of Canada to project that wait times for asylum hearings could take up to five years by 2024 with a growing backlog in the tens of thousands.
The high amount of asylum claimants funneled into metropolitan areas like Toronto and Montreal has led to a growing strain on the cities’ finances and shelter systems. In Toronto, as reported exclusively by True North, a number of hotels have been repurposed as shelters for the claimants.
“They provide everything. It’s good. Compared to U.S., it’s five star,” said one Syrian man about his stay at the Studio 6 hotel in downtown Toronto.