Canada rules US not safe for refugees

Canada’s federal court ruled on Nov. 29 that the US breaches the rights of asylum seekers under the United Nations Refugee Convention and the Convention Against Torture. Justice Michael Phelan cited the example of Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen who was detained in September 2002 by US immigration officials at JFK Airport in New York while in transit to Canada and deported to Syria, where he was tortured for 10 months under a policy later identified as “extraordinary rendition.”

The ruling essentially nullifies the three-year-old “Safe Third Country Agreement” (STCA) between the US and Canada, which denies refugees who land first in the US the right to later seek protection in Canada, and vice versa. Under the agreement, Canada automatically sends refugee claimants at the US border back to the US, where they are usually either detained or deported. “The United States’ policies and practices do not meet the conditions set down for authorizing Canada to enter into a STCA,” Phelan wrote in his 126-page decision. The court has given both parties until Jan. 14 to make and respond to submissions for an appeal. Until then, the STCA remains in effect. (, Nov. 30)

From Immigration News Briefs, Dec. 2

See our last posts on the immigration crackdown and Canada.