Pact Allowing Canada to Return Refugees to United States Is Constitutional: Court

April 15, 2021 Updated: April 15, 2021

OTTAWA—The Federal Court of Appeal has found that a pact between Ottawa and Washington to turn back asylum-seekers entering Canada from the United States does not violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The court allowed the federal government’s appeal that argued the Federal Court misinterpreted the law when it declared in July that the safe third country agreement breaches constitutional guarantees of life, liberty and security.

The Canadian Council for Refugees, Amnesty International and the Canadian Council of Churches, among others who argued against the agreement in court, can seek leave to appeal today’s ruling to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Under the bilateral agreement, which took effect in 2004, Canada and the United States recognize each other as safe places to seek protection.

It means Canada can turn back people seeking asylum who arrive at land ports of entry along the Canada-U.S. border on the basis they must pursue their claims in the United States, the country where they first arrived.

Canadian refugee advocates have vigorously fought the asylum agreement, arguing the United States is not always a safe country for people fleeing persecution.