Judge correctly found refugee pact violates charter, lawyer tells appeal court

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OTTAWA — A lawyer for prospective refugee claimants says a judge was correct in finding an agreement between Ottawa and Washington results in people being imprisoned by U.S. authorities.

Lawyer Michael Bossin argued in an appeal hearing today there was sufficient evidence for Federal Court Justice Ann Marie McDonald to conclude the Safe Third Country Agreement leads to the detention of people turned away by Canada.

Under the bilateral refugee agreement, which took effect in 2004, Canada and the U.S. recognize each other as safe places to seek protection.

It means Canada can turn back a potential refugee who arrives at a land port of entry along the Canada-U.S. border on the basis the person must pursue their claim in the U.S., the country where they first arrived.

Canadian refugee advocates have steadfastly fought the asylum agreement, arguing the U.S. is not always a safe country for people fleeing persecution.

Government lawyers contend the Federal Court misinterpreted the law when it declared in July the agreement breaches constitutional guarantees of life, liberty and security.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2021.

The Canadian Press