Lobby for Refugee Rights

The Safe Third Country Agreement will be back in court early in 2021. The Federal Court has ruled that the agreement between the United States and Canada is unconstitutional and violates rights, but now the federal government is appealing that decision. 

The federal government must drop the appeal! Your voice is needed to let our Members of Parliament know that our communities include refugees and we care about refugee rights. 

This legal challenge dates back to July 2017, when Amnesty International, the Canadian Council of Refugees and the Canadian Council of Churches sought to challenge the STCA’s constitutionality as public interest parties, alongside refugee protection claimants from Ethiopia, Syria and El Salvador. All of the claimants had been denied entry into Canada and returned to the US because of the STCA.

Under the STCA, refugee claimants must claim protection in the first country in which they arrive in most cases. The agreement assumes the US is a ‘safe’ country which upholds international human rights and the Refugee Convention.

Following extensive written submissions and five days of oral argument in November 2019, Justice Ann Marie McDonald rendered a decision on 22 July 2020, finding that the Canadian law implementing the STCA violates s. 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which protects the right to life, liberty and security of the person. She determined that those who are returned to the US face arbitrary immigration detention in conditions that “shock the conscience.” She also found that STCA returnees face an increased risk of being sent back to their countries of origin by American authorities, where they may face persecution.

In spite of the finding of clear human rights violations by the Federal Court, the government has launched an appeal. Although a date for the case has not yet been set, it is likely to take place in February or March 2021. If it takes place virtually, it may be possible to view a video stream of the hearing online.

Many organizations are now seeking to intervene in this case. They include: Rainbow Refugee, Rainbow Railroad, Canadian Lawyers for International Human Rights, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, the National Council of Canadian Muslims, the Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture, the David Asper Centre for Constitutional Rights, the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund, the West Coast Legal Education and Action Fund, the HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario, the HIV Legal Network, the Committee for Accessible AIDS Treatment, and the Health Justice Program. This demonstrates how important this case is to a diverse set of civil society, legal, and human rights organizations.

Amnesty has gathered powerful testimonies from refugee claimaints who were returned by Canada to the United States under the STCA and were detained in the United States as a result. Read their stories >>> 


1) Read the testimonies 

Amnesty has gathered powerful testimonies from refugee claimants who were returned by Canada to the United States and were detained as a result. They have shared their stories to raise awareness about the true impact of this unconstitutional agreement on people’s lives. 

Read and share their stories to centre the human lives at stake in this case>>> 

2) Record your reflection

Coming soon! Once you’ve read the testimonies, reflect on what they mean to you and why you care about refugee rights. 

We will be gathering video reflections from people across the country. We will use these reflections to amplify the powerful testimonies of refugee claimants and to let our elected officials know that our communities include refugees. 

3) Join our Lobby Day 

In the days leading up to the appeal, we will be organizing a virtual lobby day for you to meet with your Member of Parliament on refugee rights.

Sign-up now to let us know you want to join us and to get connected with others in your community.

Training, materials, and guidance will be provided to all participants. 

This lobby day will take place in late February 2021, with the exact date confirmed once we have the date of the appeal.