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Canada government appeals Federal Court ruling on Safe Third Country Agreement
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Canada government appeals Federal Court ruling on Safe Third Country Agreement

The Canadian government Friday appealed a Canadian Federal Court ruling that struck down the Safe Third Country Act (STCA).

The STCA is a key refugee agreement between the US and Canada under which refugees are required to request protection in the first safe country in which they arrive. The STCA allows Canada to turn back potential refugees who arrive at land ports of entry along the US-Canada border and to direct them to seek asylum in the US, where they first arrived, rather than in Canada.

Last month the Federal Court of Canada struck down the STCA, ruling that the STCA violated the human rights of asylum seekers seeking to enter Canada from the United States and was thus unconstitutional. The Court explained that the STCA  was unconstitutionaland thus invalidbecause it imposed a “grossly disproportionate” risk of detention by US authorities and of other human rights violations to the refugees that are returned to the US because of their ineligibility under the STCA to enter Canada. The court did, however, suspend its decision for six months—thus allowing the STCA to remain in effect until mid-January 2021—in order to give the Parliament time to respond to the court’s ruling.

On Friday, the Canadian government responded by filing an appeal, contending that there are factual and legal errors in some of the Federal Court’s key findings and claiming that “it is the responsibility of the Government of Canada to appeal to ensure clarity on the legal framework governing asylum law.”

Those opposing the STCA—including Maureen Silcoff, the president of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers— have expressed their concern about the government’s decision to appeal.  Silcoff  stated that she was deeply concerned that the government “wants to continue turning people back in to U.S. prisons where we know they will continue to suffer.”