The Conversation: U.S.-Canada agreement on refugees is now unconstitutional

By Sean Reehag
14 June, 2018


Commentary by Francois Crépeau: “Since President Donald Trump’s election there has been much discussion about the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement. Under this agreement, asylum seekers at land border crossings are turned back to the United States without having their refugee claims heard in Canada.”

The 2002 agreement only applies at official land border crossings. Thousands of asylum seekers who are already in the United States circumvent the agreement by crossing the Canadian border at irregular sites, including Roxham Road in Québec. Politicians continue to debate how to best respond.

The Liberal government wants to renegotiate an expanded agreement — though recent events suggest international negotiations with the U.S. are fraught with difficulties. It’s also safe to assume Trump will not agree to expand an international treaty preventing asylum seekers from leaving the U.S. for Canada.

The opposition Conservatives say Canada should unilaterally expand the agreement by declaring the entire U.S. border to be an official border crossing. This is a fantasy. Canada cannot send people to the United States without the U.S. agreeing any more than other countries can send people to Canada without permission.

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