January 30, 2017

As you are aware, President Trump has passed Executive Orders expediting asylum determinations and deportations, suspending the US refugee admissions program for 120 days, barring refugees from Syria until the President decides it is in the national interest, and temporarily barring visas for individuals from certain Muslim-majority countries.

These dramatic changes to US refugee policy highlight the need to re-consider the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) between Canada and the US, and for Canada to boost its leadership in refugee resettlement.

CARL is calling on Canada to:

  1. suspend the STCA , and reassess US asylum law and practice. Unless the review indicates that the US actually complies with its international refugee law obligations, Canada should terminate the agreement;

  2. respond to the US suspension of refugee resettlement by increasing the number of refugees it will re-settle in 2017; and 

  3. work with other resettlement countries and the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR,  to ensure that the individuals and families who have already gone through the US’ refugee screening program can be re-settled elsewhere

​We urge you to call your own Member of Parliament, or write him/her a short email, and express your concern. Ask your MP to raise the issue in the house, and with their party leader. For your MP’s contact information, see Just enter your postal code in the box in the top right. Even 10 phone calls to an individual MP will make a tremendous difference.

Please share this request among your networks. 

CARL Press Statement is available at


The Canada-U.S Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) came into effect in 2004. Under this Agreement, Canada and the US recognize each other as “safe” for refugee claimants. The Agreement prohibits asylum seekers from making refugee claims at land-based ports of entry between the US and Canada. Those who try to enter Canada through the US to make a claim at the border, are returned to the US regardless of whether they will or already have had access to asylum in the US.

The Agreement allows for some limited exceptions, the most significant being for those who have a family member in Canada with status. These individuals are permitted to enter and make a claim. Prior to 2009, there was also an exception for nationals of countries which Canada had imposed a temporary suspension of removals (“moratorium countries”). In July 2009 that exception was removed through a regulatory amendment, exposing nationals of these countries to the possibility of the US returning them to a country where they would be at risk, contrary to the guarantee on “non-refoulement”.

The experience of individuals making claims at Canada-US ports of entry has shown that the strict and narrow application of the terms of the STCA can cause extraordinary hardship, and even place individuals at risk. In some instances, claimants are being detained and deported to their home country without benefit of an asylum hearing. While the Minister retains discretion under s. 25.1 of IRPA to act on his or her own initiative to exempt a claimant from the operation of the STCA, port of entry officers lack legislated authority to exercise that discretion, and port of entry claimants may suffer as a result.

Those claimants who qualify for an exemption to the STCA, are permitted to proceed with a claim before the RPD. However, the legislation provides that they are barred from appealing a negative decision to the RAD. The appeal bar bears no connection to the merits of the refugee claim, as it is tied solely to the fact that the claimant made their claim at a land border with the US.