"The appeal signals a willingness to ignore the horrors that refugees face in the U.S. Furthermore, it is an affront to those individuals who bravely shared their stories during the court case. It is especially disappointing from a government that has committed to welcoming newcomers." — Larry Brown, NUPGE President
Ottawa (30 Oct. 2020) — The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is calling on the federal government to withdraw its appeal of the recent court ruling on the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) between Canada and the U.S.
NUPGE President Larry Brown has sent a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau urging the government to withdraw the appeal, suspend the STCA, and stop sending refugee claimants back to the U.S.
What is the Safe Third Country Agreement?
The STCA, which came into effect in December 2004, is based on the assumption that both countries are safe places for refugees. Therefore, it requires asylum seekers to request refugee status in the first country in which they arrive, meaning that those trying to come to Canada through the U.S. would be turned away at the Canadian border.
In July 2017, the Canadian Council for Refugees, Amnesty International, the Canadian Council of Churches, along with individual litigants, launched a legal challenge against the STCA. They argued that the U.S. was never a safe place for all refugees, but it has become more dangerous under the Trump administration.
Evidence and testimonies presented in the case illustrated how Canada put refugee claimants at risk by sending them back to the U.S. This includes being detained, denied protections, or deported to their countries of origin. Under the Trump administration, anti-immigrant and anti-refugee rhetoric and measures, often steeped in racism Islamophobia, and a ramping up of enforcement have put refugees at even greater risk.
NUPGE has previously spoken out about the STCA, joining the calls for its suspension.
Federal Court finds STCA violates Charter rights
In July, a Federal Court judge ruled that the STCA violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Justice Ann Marie McDonald found that the agreement violated the Charter rights to life, liberty, and security of the person.
NUPGE applauded the ruling, which was an important victory for refugee and migrant rights. We were then shocked to learn that the Canadian government would be appealing the ruling.
“The appeal signals a willingness to ignore the horrors that refugees face in the U.S.,” Brown continued. “Furthermore, it is an affront to those individuals who bravely shared their stories during the court case. It is especially disappointing from a government that has committed to welcoming newcomers.”
Canada must do better
President Brown has urged Prime Minister Trudeau to honour the Federal Court ruling and to suspend the STCA.
“I am asking you to withdraw your government’s appeal of the Federal Court ruling, suspend the STCA, and immediately stop sending refugee claimants back to the U.S.,” Brown wrote. “Doing so would demonstrate a true commitment to the safety, well-being, and rights of refugees and migrants.”
Canadians can take action
NUPGE encourages members to learn more about the STCA and its impacts. They can learn more at the Canadian Council for Refugees’ resource page.
Individuals can also take action by joining the call on the Canadian government to respect the Federal Court ruling and suspend the STCA. Amnesty International Canada has developed a letter form to write Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Marco Mendicino.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE