View Full Version : Canadian Judge Invalidates Country's Refugee Treaty With U.S.

12-01-2007, 09:57 AM
Canadian Judge Invalidates Country's Refugee Treaty With U.S.


By Joe Schneider

Nov. 29 (Bloomberg) -- Canada's treaty with the U.S. on the treatment of refugees is illegal because the U.S. doesn't comply with conventions protecting asylum seekers and sometimes sends people to countries where they may be tortured, a Canadian judge said.

Canada entered into an agreement on the treatment of refugees with the U.S. in 2004, as part of the two countries' "Smart Borders Declaration.'' The accord bars Canada from considering refugee applications from people who arrive in the country from the U.S. by land. Canada is required to send those asylum seekers back to the U.S.

Canada's Parliament approved the law, subject to some conditions, including that the U.S. comply with international cconventions designed to prevent asylum seekers from being sent back to countries where they may be persecuted, or to countries that engage in torture.

"The United States' policies do not meet the conditions,'' Judge Michael Phelan said in a 126-page ruling released today in Ottawa by the Federal Court of Canada.

The judge cited the case of Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen who in 2002 was mistakenly identified as a terror suspect during a stop in New York. U.S. officials sent him to his native Syria where he was jailed and tortured, according to a Canadian inquiry that found Arar was not linked to terrorism.

The Canada-U.S. asylum treaty also is unconstitutional, Phelan said, because it treats people in identical refugee situations differently by applying only to land crossings.

"One transiting the U.S. from their home country makes the last part of the journey by land to Canada, is immediately returned to the U.S.,'' Phelan said. "The other transits the U.S. and makes the last part of the journey on a non-stop flight originating in the U.S. and receives the full panoply of Canadian protection.''

The case is Between Canadian Council for Refugees and Her Majesty the Queen, Federal Court of Canada (Ottawa). Case No. 2007 FC 1262.