2 August 2-9, 2020 catholicregister.org
Safe Third Country Agreement violates rights, says Canada's Federal Court
BY MICHAEL SWAN The Catholic Register
Refugee advocates are applauding a Federal Court ruling that Canada's Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms by sending refugees who arrive at Canadian land borders back to detention in the United States. It is the second time a Canadian federal judge has struck down the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement on constitutional grounds. For Catholic refugee advocates, the ruling is a victory, said Norbert Pich, Jesuit Refugee Service country director for Canada. "If we're going to be saying that we are Christians, that we believe in what Christ tells us, then we have to believe in welcoming the stranger," Pich said. "The stranger is the refugee claimant, the person who is fleeing persecution. If we are truly, bona fide Christians we will stand up for these people." "We can continue being Canada - a fair country and a country that protects refugees," said Loly Rico, co- director of the FCJ Refugee Centre, a shelter sponsored by the Faithful Companions of Jesus. The case brought in 2017 on behalf of three women by the Canadian Council of Churches, Amnesty International Canada and the Canadian Council for Refugees was largely a reprise of a challenge the same parties brought to court a decade earlier. In 2007 a federal judge struck down the agreement on consti- tutional grounds, only to have the decision later overturned by an appeals court that ruled the three organizations did not have standing to argue on behalf of refugees before the court. In the 2007 ruling against the Safe Third Country Agreement, Justice Michael Phelan found it is unreasonable to conclude that the U.S. complies with its obligations under the 1951 United Nations Convention on Refugees and the Convention against Torture. In the July 22 ruling Justice Ann Marie McDonald found "the evidence clearly demonstrates that those returned to the U.S. by Canadian officials are detained as a penalty." Both judges ruled that the Safe Third Country Agreement violates section seven of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guar- antees "life, liberty and security of the person." McDonald gave the govern- ment six months to either appeal her decision or exit the agreement with the U.S. "I think we can expect that it will be appealed," Canadian Council of Churches general secretary Peter Noteboom told The Catholic Register . Along with Amnesty Interna- tional and the Canadian Council for Refugees, Noteboom urges the government not to appeal. For nearly two decades Canada's churches have been fighting the Safe Third Country Agreement, ever since it was first agreed in 2002 and entered into force in 2004. Fighting for a fair and open welcome for refugees isn't something churches can back away from, Noteboom said. "It's not something extra. It's not some sort of marginal or external thing to churches and faith com- munities in Canada. It's part of how they see themselves," he said. "For decades already, the whole initiative, the whole movement of caring for refugees, of working with refugees and immigrants coming to Canada has been in the
BY JUNNO AROCHO ESTEVES Catholic News Service
As governments and world leaders struggle to contain the coronavirus pandemic, they must also work harder to protect victims of human trafficking, said the Vatican-based international network of Catholic charities. Insufficient attention "was paid on the collateral damage of the ongoing pandemic, especially on migrants and informal workers, who are now more exposed to traf- ficking and exploitation," Caritas Internationalis said in a July 28 joint statement with COATNET, a network of 46 Christian organiza- tions engaged in fighting human trafficking. The statement was made ahead of the July 30 commemoration of the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. "Caritas Internationalis and COATNET also call for urgent and targeted measures to support workers in informal sectors such as domestic work, agricultural and construction work, where most vulnerable workers (i.e. undocu- mented migrants) can be found," it said. Citing statistics released by the International Labor Organization, Caritas said currently there are "40 million people in our world today" who are victims of human traffick- ing. The current health crisis, it added, has only exacerbated the problem "due to lack of housing and job security resulting from government measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19." "Lack of freedom of movement caused by lockdown and travel re- strictions means that human traf- ficking victims in many countries have less chance of escaping and finding help when they are held in situations against their will," Caritas said. "Among them, there are many victims of trafficking for sexual ex- ploitation. Domestic workers face increased risks economically, and also physically and psychologically, as they are even more cut offfrom society during the pandemic." Caritas also said restrictive measures have made it difficult for associations and local authori- ties to identify cases of trafficking as well as an increase in violence against children, particularly online exploitation in homes "with little parental supervision." Aloysius John, Caritas In- ternationalis' secretary general, said "focused attention must not prevent us from taking care of the people most vulnerable to traffick- ing and exploitation." "At this moment of COVID-19, we denounce a preoccupying reality for vulnerable people and increase in risk of trafficking," John said. genetic code of faith communities and churches." Harvard law professor Deborah Anker called the Canadian ruling "a very important decision." "It's a human rights judgment against the United States for its asylum policy by a credible allied nation," she said. "It's tremendous- ly significant. It will get cited in litigation (in the U.S.) I'm sure and in policy documents. If there's a (Joe) Biden administration that takes office at the end of January, it will make a difference that a Canadian court so held." While the case was before the court in Canada, conditions in U.S. immigration detention centres have gotten worse, said Anker, who was an expert witness in the case. "Conditions in detention are dangerous now because of COVID-19, more dangerous," she said. Even if many of the issues and individual cases at issue in the decision predate the Trump ad- ministration, the ruling highlights the deterioration of the U.S. refugee system in the last three years, said lawyer Don Kerwin, executive director of the Scalabrini Fathers' Centre for Migrant Studies. "The United States has an ad- ministration in place right now that is doing its level best to evis- cerate the U.S. asylum system," Kerwin said. "It's part of a broader effort to decimate all U.S. refugee protec- tion programs." Kerwin called the Canadian court's judgment on U.S. treatment of refugees "understandable" and "really lamentable." "What the Canadian court is pointing out is how badly the United States now treats refugees and asylum seekers, and how pre- cipitously it has fallen in terms of its response to people in great need," he said.
Caritas warns of rise in human trafficking
Refugee advocates declare victory
Refugees in Lacolle, Que., sit outside one of the tents set up to house the influx of asylum-seekers near the U.S. border in 2017.
(CNS photo/Christinne Muschi, Reuters)
Peter NoteboomPrevious Page