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Vicky Mochama: It's time Canada renegotiates Safe Third Country Agreement

As the U.S. adds Salvadorans to a list of migrants losing protected status, Canada's response has been decidedly lacklustre.

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel called Justin Trudeau's government to close the loophole in the Safe Third Country Agreement after the U.S. moved to end protection for Salvadorans in that country.

Adrian Wyld / The Canadian Press

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel called Justin Trudeau's government to close the loophole in the Safe Third Country Agreement after the U.S. moved to end protection for Salvadorans in that country.

Ten days from now will mark the one-year anniversary of the inauguration of the 45th American president. It has been a whirlwind year that has upset global norms and created an atmosphere of chaos.

“From this moment on,” promised the president before a thin crowd, “it’s going to be America First.”

On Monday, his administration rescinded Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for an estimated 260,000 Salvadorans. Since an earthquake in 2001, some people from El Salvador have been able to gain the protection of the TPS program, an emergency-response that grants work visas and residency status.

In ending the program, protectees are given 18 months to essentially leave the United States.

If the scenario sounds familiar, that is because in November the Americans also put an end to the TPS program for 59,000 Haitians. Five hundred Sudanese and 2,500 Nicaraguan people have been similarly notified.

In addition to the much-litigated and now-official Muslim ban as well as the proposal to “build a wall” at the U.S.-Mexico border, that administration’s hostility to migrants is less a matter of conjecture, but, rather, a fact.

And yet, Canada’s response has been decidedly lacklustre.

While the previous Conservative government was aware of a massive backlog at the Immigration and Refugee Board, it is this government that has yet to fully respond.

A spokesperson from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said by email that the government has developed a contingency plan drawing on lessons from 2017 that includes mobile units and more community outreach in the U.S. to TPS-affected communities.

In a statement released Monday, Opposition immigration critic Michelle Rempel called on the Trudeau government to re-open negotiations with the American administration over the Safe Third Country agreement, especially with regard to the section that allows people crossing irregularly to make their claims once they’ve arrived.

I spoke to Rempel Tuesday, who said: “Canadian officials have been telling the Canadian government for months that as Trump is rescinding the TPS status for different groups that it will likely have an impact on our immigration system. To me it’s just really bizarre that [renegotiating the agreement] hasn’t even come up as a topic.”

Refugee advocates have long held that the ultimate response to American anti-migrant sentiments is to withdraw wholly from the Safe Third Country Agreement. I maintain there is a credible argument that the United States is indeed not safe for a variety of migrants.

Neither Ms. Rempel or the government agree with that assessment.

However, we ought to agree that the system at present is simply not fit. Even if TPS-protected applicants want to come to Canada without claiming asylum, they face backlogs in almost every migrant class.

“This American carnage stops right here and stops right now,” said the newly inaugurated president almost one year ago.

Yet the carnage continues and Canada still isn’t quite ready.

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