British Columbia

Safe Third Country Agreement to stay, pledges immigration minister

As the issue of asylum seekers in Canada continue to be hotly debated, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen once again rejected calls to suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement, a pact which considers asylum-seekers safe in both Canada and the U.S.

Ahmed Hussen says there no need to 'tinker with' the pact that deals with asylum seekers

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen (centre) and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan attend a citizenship ceremony in Vancouver on March 29, 2017. (Genevieve Milord/CBC)

As the debate over the future of asylum seekers in Canada continues, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen has once again rejected calls to suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement, a pact which considers asylum-seekers to be safe in both Canada and the U.S. 

"[The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] supports our position and they've said very clearly the U.S. domestic asylum system provides due process both in Canada and the U.S.," said Hussen while at a citizenship ceremony in Vancouver. 

"There's absolutely no need to tinker with the Safe Third Country Agreement." 

The RCMP has arrested nearly half as many asylum seekers already this year as they did in all of 2016. And, advocates for those asylum seekers warn the agreement gives people incentive to cross irregularly, potentially putting themselves at harm.

"[The agreement] forces people to cross with their families. There are pregnant women that are crossing, children crossing in really dangerous situations where people are facing severe frostbite," said Harsha Walia with refugee advocacy group No One is Illegal. 

A question about the future of the act was also posed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday while in Winnipeg

"We know how important it is that Canadians have integrity both in our borders and in the integrity of our immigration system," Trudeau said. 

"That's why we are going to continue to work very, very carefully and thoughtfully with all partners to ensure that Canadians can continue to have confidence in our system."

A card to welcome new Canadian citizens at a Vancouver citizenship ceremony.

The agreement was enacted in 2004 and requires refugees to make an asylum claim in the first country they reach, preventing most migrants from claiming asylum in Canada if they're coming from countries deemed to be safe, such as the United States.

However, the act only applies at designated border crossings, giving migrants who cross irregularly the opportunity to claim refugee status.