The Liberal government is appealing last month's Federal Court decision that ruled the Safe Third Country Agreement — Canada's asylum agreement with the United States — infringes upon the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In a decision released July 22, Justice Ann Marie McDonald said the agreement — which stops people from entering either Canada or the U.S. at official Canada-U.S. border crossings and asking for asylum — violates the section of the Charter guaranteeing "the right to life, liberty and security of the person."
McDonald suspended her invalid ruling for six months to allow Parliament to respond.
Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said in a statement Friday the government filed an appeal today because they believe there are factual and legal errors in some of the court's key findings.
"There are important legal principles to be determined in this case, and it is the responsibility of the government of Canada to appeal to ensure clarity on the legal framework governing asylum law," reads the statement.
"Canada has a long and proud tradition of providing protection to those who need it most by offering refuge to the world's most vulnerable people, and the government of Canada remains firmly committed to upholding a compassionate, fair and orderly refugee protection system. The STCA remains a comprehensive vehicle to help accomplish that, based on the principle that people should claim asylum in the first safe country in which they arrive."
The 16-year-old agreement, which remains in effect, recognizes both countries as "safe" countries for migrants and states that refugee claimants are required to request refugee protection in the first country they arrive in — meaning Canadian border officials would send back to the U.S. any would-be refugee claimants arriving at an official border crossing into Canada.
The Canadian Council for Refugees, Amnesty International, the Canadian Council of Churches and a number of individual litigants brought the original case forward and argued that by returning ineligible refugee claimants to the U.S., Canada exposes them to risks — including detention and eventual deportation to countries where they could face harm.
Conservative MP and immigration critic Peter Kent immediately issued a statement supporting the appeal.
"While we are pleased the government has decided to appeal this ruling, Canadians' confidence in the immigration system has been rocked by years of Justin Trudeau's failure to address these concerns, and his failure to restore integrity and compassion to the immigration process," he said in a statement.
But the NDP's critic Jenny Kwan called the move the a "heartless and shameful act."
"By appealing this ruling, the federal Liberals are saying they'd rather let people seeking the safety of asylum here in Canada suffer under Donald Trump's rules, than stand up for human rights and Canadian values," she wrote in a statement Friday afternoon.