Supreme Court to Review Constitutionality of Safe Third Country Refugee Pact

By The Canadian Press
The Canadian Press
The Canadian Press
December 16, 2021 Updated: December 16, 2021

OTTAWA—The Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to review a lower court decision that affirmed the constitutionality of a pact between Ottawa and Washington on asylum seekers.

Under the 17-year-old Safe Third Country Agreement, Canada and the United States recognize each other as havens where people can seek protection.

It means Canada can turn back potential refugees who show up at land ports of entry along the Canada-U.S. border on the basis they must pursue their claims in the U.S., the country where they first arrived.

Canadian refugee advocates have steadfastly opposed the asylum agreement, arguing the U.S. is not always a safe country for people fleeing persecution.

Several refugee claimants took the case to Federal Court along with the Canadian Council for Refugees, the Canadian Council of Churches and Amnesty International, who participated in the proceedings as public interest parties.

Federal Court Justice Ann Marie McDonald concluded the agreement results in ineligible claimants being imprisoned by U.S. authorities, violating the Charter of Rights, but her ruling was overturned by the Federal Court of Appeal.