Canada's immigration minister Ahmed Hussen says the Safe Third Country agreement with the U.S. will remain as President Trump's travel ban does not affect the U.S. asylum system. CNS photo/Jamal Nasrallah, EPA

Safe Third Country agreement will not be scrapped, says immigration minister

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  • February 14, 2017

OTTAWA – Church groups calling for the scrapping of the Safe Third Country agreement in response to U.S. President Trump’s refugee policies are likely to remain disappointed.

Only the New Democratic Party is calling for measures to respond to the Trump administration’s travel ban, halt in accepting refugees and crackdown on people living in the United States illegally. Both the Liberals and the Conservatives have indicated no need to change current policies.

After Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s first visit to Washington, D.C., Feb. 13, trade, economic issues and security took front and centre, with scarcely a mention of Canada’s differing approach on refugees. Though Trudeau defended Canada’s welcome of 40,000 Syrian refugees, he did so in the context of also ensuring the safety and security of Canadians.

Meanwhile, since December, hundreds of asylum seekers have endangered their lives by crossing the border into Manitoba and Quebec, with no signs this increased influx will stop any time soon.

NDP Immigration Critic Jenny Kwan blasted Trudeau for not raising the travel ban with the U.S. President.

“Canadians expect our Prime Minister to show up and to actually do their job and to tell the President that the travel ban is something that we cannot support,” Kwan told journalists Feb. 13. “It’s something that Canadians reject, that we cannot have a country, a democratic country issuing a travel ban based on people’s religion and their place of birth.”

Trudeau, however, told journalists in Washington it was not his job to lecture another country on its policies.

The NDP is calling for an immediate lifting on the 1,000 application cap for private refugee sponsorships, fast-tracking of refugees approved by the United States but unable to enter now, suspending the Safe Third Country agreement, and working with the international community to address the refugee settlement shortfall. The Canadian Council of Churches has also called for scrapping or suspending the Safe Third Country agreement.

Canada’s Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen has said Canada is not considering reviewing the Safe Third Country agreement because President Trump’s executive orders does not affect the U.S. asylum system.

“In terms of those fleeing and coming to our country, we always sympathize, I personally sympathize with those who are seeking safety and security in our country for themselves and for their families, and I know that folks sometimes go through a lot to get to that point,” Hussen said, noting the Immigration and Refugee Board would give everyone a fair hearing.

The agreement is in place to allow “both countries to better handle the asylum system” and “to prevent asylum shopping,” he said.

Conservative MPs, however, are stressing the importance of border security as the asylum seeker influx increases.

“First of all, what’s happening is illegal,” said Conservative MP Ted Falk, who represents Manitoba’s Provencher riding. “They’re crossing the border illegally. They have figured out there’s a loophole with the Safe Third Country agreement.”

Falk said their refugee claims should be made in the United States.

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