Civil society leaders call on Parliamentary Committee to Ensure Protection of Human Rights for Refugee Claimants crossing into Canada from the United States

Media Release

For immediate release
24 July 2018

Civil society leaders call on Parliamentary Committee to Ensure Protection of Human Rights for Refugee Claimants crossing into Canada from the United States

As the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration holds hearings as part of its study related to the “Impact of Irregular Crossing of Canada's Southern Border”, a group of civil society leaders is calling for a measured response, focussed on avoiding alarmist rhetoric and ensuring the protection of the human rights of refugee claimants.

Among the Committee’s top priorities should be to avoid politicization of the topic by recognizing that Canada does not face a crisis along the Canada/US border and focusing on effective coordination between all levels of government in responding to the needs of refugee claimants. In addition, Canada must take the long overdue step of suspending the Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States, particularly as the Trump Administration continues to assail and strip away human rights protections for refugees and migrants.

Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty international Canada said:

“One key step that becomes only more urgent and more obvious with time is the need to suspend the Canada/US Safe Third Country Agreement.  The STCA is premised on the notion that the US meets its international obligations when it comes to refugee protection.  At a time when human rights protections for refugees and migrants in the US are being eroded with an endless stream of new laws, policies, decisions and Executive Orders, it is a fiction to continue to assert that the United States is safe.  Lifting the Agreement would also take away the incentive for refugee claimants to cross into Canada through irregular avenues, avoiding official border posts, and would bring back a sense of greater order and oversight to who is crossing our southern frontier,” said Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada.

Claire Roque, President of the Canadian Council for Refugees, said:

"It is absurd to suggest that Canada is unable to cope with the modest numbers of people making refugee claims here. Canada is receiving far fewer refugees than many other countries, including much poorer countries. We need collaboration between all levels of government to ensure that refugees are welcomed and protected appropriately, and in a way Canadians can be proud of. Inaccurate and inflammatory language about refugee claimants risks harming people whose lives may depend on Canada treating them fairly. Refugee claimants are among the most vulnerable people in our society: they should never be used as a political football."

Amy Casipullai, Senior Coordinator, Policy and Communications for OCASI, said:

“We need collaboration between all three levels of government and community service organizations in Ontario to make sure refugee claimants are appropriately welcomed and supported. All levels of government share in the many benefits that refugees and other newcomers bring to our communities, and all should play their part in meeting their needs.”

Stephan Reichhold, Director, Table de concertation des organismes au service des personnes réfugiées et immigrantes (TCRI), said:

“Quebec’s reception system for refugee claimants is well-developed.  As such, we call on all levels of government to continue to collaborate constructively. Organizations providing services to new arrivals are actively engaged in the coordinated effort to ensure that refugees in search of protection are welcomed in dignity and full security.”

Anne Woolger, Founding Director of Matthew House Toronto said: 

“As an agency that provides welcome, shelter and support for newly arrived refugee claimants, we have found that in spite of having fled war and persecution, refugee claimants are highly motivated, resilient people who are often well-educated and entrepreneurial, eager to give back to the country that welcomed and protected them. When provided with effective reception and support, the return on investment is enormous, and all of Canada benefits.”

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Colleen French, Communication Coordinator, Canadian Council for Refugees, 514-277-7223, ext.1, 514-602-2098 (cell),