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Law students' report says Canada in violation of Charter

The report calls for the immediate suspension of the Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the U.S.

Osgoode Law School student Kim Veller is part of a group of university law students behind a report that calls on the House of Commons to repeal Canada’s Safe Third Country Agreement with the U.S.

Eduardo Lima / Metro Order this photo

Osgoode Law School student Kim Veller is part of a group of university law students behind a report that calls on the House of Commons to repeal Canada’s Safe Third Country Agreement with the U.S.

Law students from across the country issued a report that argues Canada’s continued participation in the Safe Third Country Agreement with the U.S. violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The report, compiled by hundreds of law students on behalf of the Canadian Council for Refugees, calls on the government to suspend the agreement in response to the Trump administration’s immigration policies.

“This agreement puts Canada as a state in jeopardy and we need it to be suspended immediately,” said Kim Veller, a student at York’s Osgoode Law School and one of the researchers.

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In effect since 2004, the agreement deems both Canada and U.S. as safe countries capable of providing refugee protection to claimants. It has been criticized in the wake of White House executive orders that halt refugee claimants and ban travel from six predominantly Muslim countries.

Trump’s ban has forced hundreds of refugee claimants to use unauthorized border crossing techniques to sneak into Canada. It’s an unsafe and dangerous route that has left some of them with frostbites, but remains the only way to avoid being subjected to the Safe Third Country Agreement, said Veller.

The report shows how refugees turned back on Canadian borders could face detention, deportation or lack of access to legal representation in the United States. By continuing to be part of the agreement, Canada “is breaching” both its own Charter of Rights and the International Refugee Convention, the report notes.

Despite mounting pressure, immigration minister Ahmed Hussen said last month Canada was not considering reviewing the agreement.

“I don’t think we have a government that even cares about refugees,” said Veller, noting scrapping the agreement would be the easiest way to show the support. “We keep talking about receiving Syrian refugees, but what are we doing for Syrians and others who want to leave the U.S.? Nothing.”

Quick Facts:

  • A total of 845 students from 22 Canadian law schools participated in last month’s research-a-thon, the results of which are compiled in the report.
  • Other groups calling for the cancellation of the Safe Third Country Agreement include law professors, the Canadian Council of Churches, Canadian Council of Refugees, Amnesty International Canada and Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

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