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Canada should suspend Safe Third Country agreement with the U.S. says B.C. group

BCCLA asks for suspension of ‘Safe Third Country Agreement’ for refugees
ABOVE: The BC Civil Liberties Association is speaking out following Donald Trump’s immigration ban. It wants to see Canada suspend a high profile refugee agreement with the U.S. BCCLA Executive Director Josh Paterson joins Global News with more.

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) is speaking out today following Donald Trump’s travel ban.

It wants to see Canada suspend a high-profile refugee agreement with the U.S.

The ‘Safe Third Country’ agreement with the U.S. allows both countries to acknowledge that each country is a safe place for refugees to land. The refugee would make their claim to stay in the first North American country where they land – whether that is the U.S. or Canada. At the Canadian border, if people are transiting through the United States trying to make a claim in Canada, most of them will be turned back and told they are able to make their claim in the U.S. because it’s a safe country. However, U.S. President Donald Trump’s executive order halted immigration from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days, and stopped the resettlement of refugees for 120 days.

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Josh Paterson, the executive director of the BCCLA, said to Global News “does that mean if a refugee claimant is in the United States and figures ‘well I’m not going to be accepted here’ or is refused and they come [to Canada] that Canada will bounce them back? That’s what this agreement means.”

“We say that’s unacceptable.”

READ MORE: Trump travel ban reaction: ‘Syrian refugees…have been vetted more than Trump’s cabinet picks’

Canada’s Immigration Minister, Ahmed Hussen, said the Canadian government needs to look at the parametres of the ‘Safe Third Country’ agreement and see what rules are currently in place before making any further decisions.

He added there is still a lot of confusion about the U.S. travel ban, including the fact that the U.S. government has announced it will grant waivers to 872 refugees this week despite the order temporarily banning refugees from any country.

“It shows you that this is a fast-changing situation, evolving constantly and the responsible thing to do is maintain contact, continue to engage and make sure that we monitor the situation closely and make sure that we provide information to Canadians, which we have done,” said Hussen.

But Paterson said Canada has to live up to its international obligations. “That means not sending back refugee claimants to a country that says they’re not going to accept them.”

“We’ve come up against a question now of fundamental human rights, it’s taken one week and we’re already in this quagmire, this global chaos, that the Trump administration has unleashed.”

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Many groups across the country are calling on the Canadian government to suspend the ‘Safe Third Country’ agreement with the U.S.

“We don’t think that Canada can stand by in the face of these potential human rights violations and just go along with it,” Paterson added.

“It’s all fine for the government to watch and see and see what the Trump administration is doing. We know what they’re doing. They’ve said refugees aren’t welcome and so it’s upon us to act.”