A New Brunswick woman has united 22 law schools across the country — including UNB and the Université de Moncton — in support of refugees.

They're holding a 12-hour research-a-thon on Saturday, working on legal arguments against recent travel bans in the U.S. and the Safe Third Country Agreement.

Rachelle Bastarache, a law student at McGill University who grew up in the Saint John area, and two friends came up with the idea of a 12-hour research-a-thon Tuesday night at 10 p.m. By Wednesday at 11 a.m., she said 14 schools were on board.

The other eight schools quickly followed suit.

"Everybody jumped on the chance to send a united message to the government that we are not happy about legislation like the Safe Third Country Agreement," she said on CBC's Shift.


Rachelle Bastarache, a McGill law student who grew up in the Saint John area, is one of the organizers of the national research-a-thon. (Rachelle Bastarache/Facebook)

The act came into effect in 2004. According to the law students' donation page, it prohibits asylum seekers from making refugee claims at the U.S.-Canada border. In other words, those who try to enter Canada through the U.S. are returned to the U.S. regardless of whether they qualify for asylum there because Canada considers the U.S. a "safe country."

'Everybody jumped on the chance to send a united message to the government.' - Rachelle Bastarache

"As a result of the U.S. executive order that has banned all refugee claims for 120 days, all affected asylum seekers in the U.S. are barred from seeking asylum in Canada."

Bastarache said the goal of the research-a-thon is to raise money for the Canadian Council of Refugees and uncover any information from the research that would be useful in any potential court challenge.

Personal connection

Bastarache said she was motivated to act not only because she feels the legislation is unjust, but because one of her best friends is from Libya.

"I'm happy to say she received permanent residency here in Canada last month and I can't imagine a country that wouldn't want to welcome someone as warm and kind as she is."

With files from Shift