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12 July 2002

The Canadian Council for Refugees today expressed its dismay over the fact that the Canadian and US governments are negotiating in secret a side-deal to the agreement on refugee claimants at the border, announced 28 June.  While it is hard to get details about the side-deal, it apparently gives the US the power to refer up to 200 refugees per year to Canada for resettlement.

"The full details of the agreement need to be made public, so that Canadians can know what we are getting into," said Kemi Jacobs, President.  "If the government is trading Canada's sovereignty in terms of refugee selection in exchange for the border agreement, the public deserves to know about it."

The draft agreement made public by the government contains a surprising article (Article 9) on mutual assistance in the area of resettlement, but does not mention the commitment of 200.  However, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration mentioned in his press conference of 28 June that Canada was agreeing to take 200 refugees a year from the US.  This part of the deal has not been made public.  People have been asking what is in the deal for the US: this side-deal maybe answers that question.

"Canada's refugee resettlement program offers a limited number of places to refugees in need of a permanent home," said Ms Jacobs.  "If the US is allowed to refer some of the refugees, Canada loses the ability to select strictly on the basis of refugee protection needs.  Chances are that the US will have political, and not purely humanitarian, reasons for wanting to refer certain refugees."

A particular concern is that the US may want Canada to take refugees it has interdicted on the high seas and transferred to Guantanamo (or other similar locations).  The US has already persuaded a number of Central and South American countries to take some of these refugees in previous years (attempts to persuade Australia to take some were apparently unsuccessful).  The US interdiction program is contrary to international law.  The Canadian public deserves to have the opportunity of discussing whether we want to be involved in any way in such a program.

"We are asking why this deal is being kept secret.  Its presence in the agreement is an anomaly is this the carrot that is being offered the US?" asked Ms Jacobs.

For more information, contact:
Janet Dench, Executive Director (514) 277-7223
Kemi Jacobs, President (416) 588-6288
Nick Summers, Vice-President (709)682-9329