Minister Kenney announces removal of exception relating to Safe Third Country Agreement
Ottawa, July 23, 2009 – A change related to the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement was announced today by Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney. The change removes one of Canada's exceptions to the Agreement and is another step toward improving Canada's asylum system. The Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement was signed on December 5, 2002, and implemented on December 29, 2004. Under the Agreement, refugee claimants arriving in North America must make a claim in the first safe country they reach – either Canada or the United States.
One of Canada's exceptions to this agreement allowed individuals from countries under a temporary suspension of removals (TSR) coming through the Canada-U.S. land border to make a refugee claim in Canada, even though they already had the opportunity to make one in the United States. Effective today, this exception has been removed. Unless they qualify for another exception under the Safe Third Country Agreement, nationals from TSR countries (Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Iraq and Zimbabwe) arriving at a Canada-U.S.. land border will be ineligible to make a refugee claim in Canada and will be turned back to the United States. Nationals from these countries already in Canada or arriving at a port of entry that is not a land border with the U.S will not be affected by this measure and will continue to have access to Canada's asylum system.
Under the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement, individuals turned back at the Canada-U.S border will have access to the U.S. refugee protection system."The objective of the Safe Third Country Agreement is to allow both Canada and the United States to handle refugee claims in an orderly manner, reduce the possibility of multiple claims and share the responsibility for providing protection to those in need," said Minister Kenney. "This exception was undermining those objectives and therefore the integrity of our asylum system".
"It is important that we don't create a two-tier immigration system: one tier for immigrants who wait patiently in line to come to Canada, frequently for years; and another tier for those who jump the immigration queue and make refugee claims in Canada after they've already had the opportunity to do so in a safe, democratic country," continued Minister Kenney.
This decision follows a review by the Government of Canada of U.S. policies and practices that confirmed the continued designation of the United States as a country with a refugee protection program that meets international standards. In addition, the Federal Court of Appeal has upheld the legality of the Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the United States, as well as the designation of the United States as a safe third country. The Supreme Court of Canada declined to hear an appeal of that decision. A TSR prevents removals to a country or place when conditions such as war or environmental disaster threaten the lives or security of the entire population. When a TSR is in place, people whose refugee claim is rejected or who are found inadmissible for some other reason and who normally would be subject to removal are allowed to stay in Canada until the TSR is lifted.