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March 25th, 2023

NDP reacts to government's decision related to the Safe Third Country Agreement

NDP Critic for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Jenny Kwan issued the following statement:

“The NDP is deeply disturbed to learn that Prime Minister Trudeau and the Liberal government announced an expansion of the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) to the entire Canada-US border, following discussions with President Biden, which came into effect at 12:01 am on March 25, 2023. This new agreement will expand the STCA to apply beyond official ports of entry, to the entire length of the Canada-US border, further denying asylum seekers a viable path to safety.

Given the widespread human rights implications of this decision, the NDP is also alarmed to learn these secretive negotiations took place without any consultation from stakeholders and experts. Further, this more restrictive agreement between Canada and the US was signed in secret back in Ottawa on March 29, 2022, while a case was already before the Supreme Court of Canada. This is shocking and appalling.

While Canada has reportedly agreed to open 15,000 spots for migrants to enter the country legally, this will not resolve pressures at the border. In 2022, nearly 40,000 migrants entered the country through Roxham Road. This ineffective measure will not protect Canadians – it will only further endanger and marginalize asylum seekers fleeing persecution and trying to come to safety in Canada.

This so-called modernized agreement also allows immigration officers to bring people back to the border to turn them over to authorities, if they are found within 14 days of crossing the border irregularly.

New Democrats continue to call on the government to adopt a humanitarian approach to migrants and refugees and immediately suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement.

The Safe Third Country Agreement denies asylum seekers the ability to enter into Canada from the United States through official ports of entry. As a result, many resort to highly dangerous irregular migration pathways, risking life and limb in their desperate attempt to get to safety.

During recent study of this issue at the Standing Committee on Immigration and Citizenship, expert witnesses were clear to say that the Safe Third Country Agreement must be suspended, indicating that is discriminatory and harmful.

Maureen Silcoff, a leading Canadian Immigration and Refugee lawyer testified that The Safe Third Country agreement was predicated upon the notion that Canada and the United States have comparable policies and “that the United States was a reliable partner for sharing responsibilities regarding refugees…But we know now that the problems associated with it [STCA] outweigh any benefits”.

Abdulla Daoud, Executive Director of the Refugee centre explained: “We're forcing asylum seekers to go onto terrain that's very dangerous. We've already established that these are legitimate claims and that what they're going through is very unfortunate. In order to regulate the matter and ensure that the government and community organizations can service them correctly we need to suspend it [the STCA]”.

In 2020, it was the opinion of the federal court that the STCA contravenes the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by putting lives of asylum seekers at risk.

Refugees deserve a humane and safe process to enter Canada where their lives are not endangered.

The NDP fully condemns the government of Canada’s announcement to expand the STCA which will continue to put lives in danger. If the government wants to properly address pressures at the border, the only option is to suspend the STCA so that asylum seekers can reach safety in Canada.”