Amnesty International Canada

Don't Abandon Refugees

Immediately respect the Federal Court ruling and end the Safe Third Country Agreement.

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The Federal Court of Canada has found, for a second time, that the Canada-US Safe Third Country Agreement is unconstitutional. It violates section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which protects the right to life, liberty and security of the person.

Under the STCA, refugee claimants must claim protection in the first country in which they arrive in most cases. The agreement assumes the US is a ‘safe’ country which upholds international human rights and the Refugee Convention.

However, Justice Ann Marie McDonald found that refugee claimants returned under the STCA often face arbitrary immigration detention in conditions that “shock the conscience.” She recalled the case of Ms. Mustefa, a refugee claimant who was turned away by Canada under the STCA, only to be locked in solitary confinement in a freezing cold cell and given meals that she could not eat due to her religious beliefs. When Canadian officials return claimants to such conditions, they are complicit in that mistreatment.

In spite of these clear human rights violations, the government has launched an appeal. It’s crucial to let Members of Parliament and Minister Marco Mendicino know that it is unacceptable for any more refugee claimants to be returned under the STCA, given the clear risks of human rights violations.

Canada must act immediately to distance its refugee policy from the USA and rescind the Safe Third Country agreement so that refugees who turn to Canada are able to do so. It must drop the appeal of the Federal Court decision.

Additional Information

In 2017, Executive Orders were issued that blatantly violate international refugee and human rights legal obligations, including under the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture. 

Two of the Executive Orders include calls for a new regime of large-scale detention, expanded expedited removal without due process, deputizing of state and local officials to detain individuals suspected of immigration violations, and aggressive criminal prosecution for unauthorized entry, a means by which many seek access to asylum protection. 

The April 2018 ‘zero-tolerance’ policy separates and detains asylum seeking children and parents, and intentionally inflicts severe mental suffering on families for coercive purposes. 

The US practices and policies curtail asylum seekers’ ability to meaningfully pursue refugee claims in the United States, and greatly increase the risk that individuals with viable refugee claims will be deported to countries where they face persecution. 

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Call On Canada To Rescind The 'Safe Third Country' Agreement Immediately.


The Honourable
Government of Canada
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