The Canada-United States Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA), first signed in 2002, is a bilateral agreement between Canada and the United States that aims to manage the flow of asylum seekers between the two countries. The STCA stipulates that each country can turn away asylum seekers who arrive at their land border from the other country, on the grounds that they would be safe in the first country they arrived in.
The STCA was created with the intention of ensuring that both countries would be “safe” for asylum seekers. However, numerous human rights organizations and advocates have criticized the agreement, arguing that it forces vulnerable individuals to remain in unsafe situations. Critics also point out that the agreement shifts the burden of responsibility from the Canadian government to the United States, which is often criticized for its treatment of immigrants and refugees.
In July 2020, the Federal Court of Canada struck down the STCA, stating that the agreement violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and international human rights law. The court argued that the United States is no longer a “safe” country for asylum seekers due to the Trump administration`s immigration policies and the increased risk of violence faced by certain groups, such as LGBTQ+ individuals.
The Canadian government has since appealed the court`s decision, arguing that the STCA is essential for managing the flow of asylum seekers and preventing abuse of the Canadian asylum system. However, many advocates continue to call for the agreement to be scrapped, citing the enormous harm caused to vulnerable individuals who are turned away at the border.
The debate over the STCA highlights the complex issues surrounding immigration and asylum, particularly in the current political climate. As the world continues to grapple with the ongoing refugee crisis and increasing global tensions, it is essential that governments and individuals alike continue to push for policies that prioritize the safety and dignity of all people, regardless of where they come from or where they are seeking refuge.