Nova Scotia

U.S. travel ban sparks 'research-a-thon' at Dalhousie University

Students from the Schulich School of Law banded together Saturday to create summaries of important and relevant legal documents for the Canadian Council for Refugees that will help those seeking asylum in Canada.

Summaries of relevant legal documents are being made for Canadian Council for Refugees

Jessica Habet (right), a third-year law student at Dalhousie University who is originally from Belize, took part in a research-a-thon aimed at helping refugees seeking asylum in Canada. (Allison Devereaux/CBC)

The U.S. travel ban imposed on citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries has law schools across Canada supporting a group that helps refugees seeking asylum in Canada.

The Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University held a "research-a-thon" Saturday with the goal of creating summaries of relevant or important legal documents to be used by the Canadian Council for Refugees.

"Many of us were quite upset about the executive order that was signed by President Trump last week," said Ria Guidone, a third-year law student and the organizer of the event.

"We decided something needed to be done and some great students at McGill got together and reached out to all the laws schools across the country and offered this opportunity to participate in a research-a-thon."

On Friday, the travel ban was put on hold by a U.S. district judge from Seattle who, along with the states of Washington and Minnesota, challenged President Donald Trump's executive order.

Ria Guidone, a third-year law student, organized the Saturday research-a-thon at Dalhousie University. (Allison Devereaux/CBC)

Each law school has been given one particular area of research to explore so there is no overlap.

"We're looking into different kind of legislative provisions, jurisdictional issues, jurisprudence and human rights law," said Guidone.

She said the summaries should be helpful to the Canadian Council for Refugees because of the Canada-U.S. Third Country Safety Agreement.

The act came into effect in 2004. According to a donation page the law students are using to raise money for the refugee council, the act 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. to be a safe country.

"It's problematic ... since people are being sent home, but then they can't then come and see if they can come into Canada [from the U.S.]," said Guidone.

Emily McCormick, 25, a first-year law student is just one of the many students that took part in today's research-a-thon. (Allison Devereaux/CBC)

She estimated about 50 people would drop in throughout the day. She said two alumni have also volunteered to help with the research from home and that faculty have been helping.

Among those helping with the research was Jessica Habet, an international student in her third year at the law school.

"Dal law has always been extremely supportive and an inclusive environment, so it wasn't surprising to see this kind of reaction," she said.

The group of law students will create summaries of relevant legal documents to help the Canadian Council for Refugees. (Allison Devereaux/CBC)

Originally from Belize, Habet said she has empathy for the people being denied entry into the U.S.

"I immediately knew it was wrong and against all human rights because it was arbitrary and discriminatory, so we knew we had to do something," said Habet.

"I think law is extremely powerful in these situations because we're dealing with an executive order and we're trying to show that the rule of law exists. There's due process for people."

With files from Allison Devereaux