Download the Safe Third Country Agreement Policy Report!

This is a joint report by Citizens for Public Justice, STAND Canada, and STAND USA. It discusses various aspects of the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) which came into effect in 2004 with the goal of maintaining the integrity and efficiency of the asylum and refugee system in Canada and the US. Canada and the US had different motivations in signing the STCA. The US implemented the STCA to enhance border security and counter-terrorism measures while Canada was motivated by the desire to reduce the number of asylum seekers entering Canada.

This report delves into the implications and effects of the STCA for Canada as well as the legal challenges to the STCA. On July 22, 2020, Justice Ann Marie MacDonald ruled that sending refugee claimants back to the US under the STCA violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Canadian government has appealed against the ruling. This report looks at the STCA and the overall US-Canada diplomatic relations which deter Canada from rescinding the STCA.

The main findings of the report are that there are differences in refugee determination systems and treatment of asylum seekers in the US and Canada. In some ways, the US defines refugees more narrowly than the international standard that Canada uses. Some aspects of the US administration’s handling of asylum seekers cause many asylum seekers to seek safety in Canada. President Trump’s executive orders have resulted  into large-scale detention of asylum seekers, delays in adjudication,
discrimination based on religion or national origin, expedited deportations and denial of family reunification.

CPJ and STAND Canada recommend that:

  • Canadian border agents give special attention to victims of sexual assault and gender persecution, recognizing that the US does not consider violence against women as a valid reason for an asylum claim.
  • Politicians and the media should refrain from mischaracterizing asylum seekers as “illegal” border crossers because such language criminalizes people fleeing persecution.
  • The Canadian government should respect the Canadian Federal Court ruling by Justice Ann Marie MacDonald and give a fair hearing to asylum seekers to ensure that they are not subjected to violations of their life, liberty, and security of the person through denial of entry into Canada under the STCA.
  • The Canadian government should drop the appeal against the Federal Court decision and rescind the STCA with the US.

STAND USA calls on the US government to:

  • Improve treatment of refugees and asylum seekers by modifying legal processes to meet international standards to end the criminal penalization of migrants, the administrative detention of migrant children and the practice of summary removal proceedings for asylees.
  • Dialogue with Canada to address the causes of disproportionate flows of asylum seekers and modify the US asylum system to address disparities in services offered to asylum seekers, creating a more equal environment between the two countries.
  • Suspend the US-Canada STCA until appropriate changes can be made.

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