The Canadian Association of Social Workers (CASW) is deeply concerned by the lack of response from the Government of Canada (GOC) on the significant increase of asylum seekers arriving in Canada from the United States via illegal border crossings seeking refugee status in Canada.
The GOC has been facing pressure to amend or repeal the Safe Third Country Agreement after U.S President Donald Trump issued an executive order halting travel from seven Muslim-majority countries. As it stands, the GOC has refused to make any changes to the current legislation.
“If the GOC does not respond effectively to this issue, it will have dire consequences not only on those seeking refuge here in Canada, but will also affect Canadian citizens and Canadian policy decisions going forward” stated CASW President Jan Christianson-Wood.
The Safe Third Country Agreement stipulates that Canada acknowledges the U.S as a ‘safe haven’ for migrants, meaning no one should have cause to flee the U.S. as a refugee. However, in light of the current situation, this claim is being contested and calls to action are being made by advocacy groups, lawyers, and provincial government officials for the GOC to respond.
“While CASW acknowledges the restricted capacity of Canada to accommodate large numbers of asylum seekers, this decision does not acknowledge the danger to those who are braving unsafe journeys to enter Canada,” added Christianson-Wood, “despite the Canada-U.S agreement, individuals are choosing to risk illegally crossing the border, rather than chancing being turned away by border officials.”
Currently, four Canadian cities have become sanctuary cities: Toronto, Hamilton, Vancouver, and most recently Montreal, meaning that undocumented refugees will be given access to local services regardless of status. City officials have voiced concerns regarding limits to necessary services, and have called for federal support. At this point in time, asylum seekers still face an uncertain future, pending an Immigration and Refugee Board Hearing and the looming implications of the Safe Third Country Agreement.
“The problem is not going away but instead is growing rapidly;” concluded Christianson-Wood, “CASW calls for the suspension of the Safe Third Country Agreement and the establishment of a fair and humane process for claimants."
For more information:
Fred Phelps, MSW, RSW
CASW Executive Director