Two weeks after delivering a ‘toy pile of shame’ to the U.S. Consulate, a group of refugee advocates took their message to Canada’s Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Ahmed Hussen on Wednesday.
Coinciding with World Refugee Day, the event saw participants congregate outside Hussen’s constituency office in Toronto. They called for an end to the Safe Third Country agreement with the United States.
The two countries signed the agreement in December 2002. It officially came into effect in December 2004.
Under the agreement, refugee claimants are required to request refugee protection in the first safe country they arrive in, be it Canada or the United States.
However, it is based on the assumption that immigration systems in both nations are fair, which is now a major point of contention for critics.
“We have an obligation under international law, under Canadian law, not to send people home to persecution,” said Hilary Evans Cameron, event organizer and researcher at the Centre for Ethics at the University of Toronto.
“What we are doing is we’re sending them to the United States, who since they won’t get a fair shot at their asylum claim, is sending them home to persecution.”
The group revived its original concept of delivering a pile of toys Wednesday morning.
“When we decided that we wanted to build a big pile of something in front of the U.S. Consulate, we considered our options,” Cameron said.
“We figured this was the one least likely to get us arrested.”
The event comes amid global outrage over the Trump administration’s ‘zero tolerance’ immigration policy.
Generating yet more outcry internationally was the revelation that babies and young children forcibly separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexco border are being sent to “tender age” shelters in south Texas.
Adults, meanwhile are being detained and put through the criminal justice system. Since early May, more than 2,300 children have been separated from their parents.
“When we turn someone back at our border and that person is then sent to their death — we are complicit in that,” Cameron said.
They amassed a collection of stuffed animals and beach balls, which are destined for shelters following the demonstration. The point of the pile was to underscore the urgency behind their message to Hussen.
“This is a very visceral representation of the criminalization of migrants. But at the end of the day, it’s also part and parcel of other repressive policies that are happening internationally,” said lawyer Petra Molnar.
The group hoisted signs that read ‘Minister Hussen don’t be complicit,’ ‘Toy pile of shame,’ and ‘America Is Not Safe.’