At the recent hearing before Stratas J., counsel for this group argued that the government`s assertion that there would be an « increase » in new asylum seekers at the border if the agreement was struck down was « speculative » and « hypothetical ». This agreement meant that Canada should reject anyone arriving at an official U.S. place of entry and prevent them from applying for refugees in Canada, as the United States is considered a « safe country » to make such an application. However, the claimants discovered a « loophole » in the agreement, which meant that if they arrived between the official ports of entry, they could apply to Canada. McDonald gave the government until the end of January to prepare for the break of the agreement because it understood that it was in the public interest not to terminate the agreement immediately. Persons who have been convicted of a serious criminal past are prohibited from seeking the protection of refugees, regardless of how they enter the country. « The idea that the pandemic will be eliminated and that borders will be reopened in three months is certainly attractive. (But) It`s clearly a fantasy, » said immigration and refugee lawyer Andrew Brouwer. Refugee supporters expressed disappointment with the Court of Appeal`s decision. Repealing the agreement could also lead to « negative effects and delays » across the immigration and refugee system, the government argues.
Supporters of Canadian refugees have vehemently opposed the asylum deal, saying the United States is not always a safe country for people fleeing persecution. Under the refugee agreement, which came into force in 2004, Canada and the United States recognize each other as safe places to seek refuge. Since then, Ottawa has appealed the decision and it has been suspended until the complaint is completed. The government said the abolition of the agreement would result in an « inflow » of asylum seekers at the border, making it more difficult for several levels of government to maintain the existing refugee system, including the provision of housing and other social services. Under the Third Country Security Agreement, in effect since December 2004, Canada and the United States declare the other country safe for refugees and close the door to most refugees at the U.S.-Canada border. On Monday, the Federal Court of Appeal ruled in Ottawa`s favour and set the January 22 deadline set by the first instance to overturn the Safe-Third Country agreement. The merits of the government`s appeal process can be heard at a full hearing a month later, in February. The agreement represented a long-standing desire of the Canadian government to limit the number of people applying for refugees, as potential applicants are much more likely to travel to Canada by land via the United States to assert a right than in the opposite direction. Although the United States initially resisted Canada`s proposal because it meant that it had to deal with more complainants, after 2001, the Bush administration accepted this request in exchange for Canada`s cooperation with other U.S.
security priorities. « In practice, this is only a one-month suspension by the Federal Court of Justice, » Justice David Stratas wrote in a 19-two decision on the government`s request to suspend the deadline. « The panel can be expected to do its best to expedite the publication of its decision, particularly when it intends to dismiss the complaint and, therefore, minimize the length of stay. In a written statement, government lawyers say the absence of the agreement would serve as a « pull factor » that would attract people to claim protection in Canada.