Supreme Court upholds Safe Third Country Agreement, permits deportation of migrants to U.S.

Justice Nicholas Kasirer dismissed a constitutional challenge of the agreement but contends humanitarian and compassionate exemptions excuse 'administrative deferrals of removal.'

Supreme Court upholds Safe Third Country Agreement, permits deportation of migrants to U.S.
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Migrants looking to enter Canada from the U.S. — without just cause — will find no friends in the Supreme Court of Canada after a unanimous decision ruled the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) as constitutional. 

However, the ground-breaking ruling comes with a catch.

First signed in 2004, the bilateral deal denied migrants the ability to seek asylum in Canada if they first landed in the U.S. That did not include unofficial crossings like Roxham Road — a route exploited by smugglers and tens of thousands of people annually.

In 2022, 39,171 migrants entered Québec through Roxham to avoid deportation.

Aggregate data, revealed by Conservative MP Chris Lewis on the number of asylum seekers entering the country each year, has steadily increased since Justin Trudeau became prime minister in 2015.

However, Trudeau and President Joe Biden closed that loophole on March 24. In exchange, Canada will welcome 15,000 migrants from across the Americas over the next year on a "humanitarian basis."

With the signing of the ʼadditional protocolʼ on the STCA, Canada and the U.S. remain "safe" countries for migrants and state that refugee claimants are required to seek asylum in the first country where they arrive.

While the court did not consider the ''additional protocol'' in its ruling on Friday, Justice Nicholas Kasirer dismissed a constitutional challenge of the agreement, contending its " safety valves…are sufficient to ensure that no deprivations contrary to the principles of fundamental justice occur."

Kasirer explained some exemptions would allow some refugee claimants to stay in Canada.

If illegal immigrants manage to wait 14 days before making a refugee claim, they escape the new provisions of the agreement.

Additionally, humanitarian and compassionate exemptions excuse " administrative deferrals of removal," according to the Kasirer.

"The legislation is tailored to prevent certain infringements of Sec. 7 interests and, importantly for present purposes, survives constitutional scrutiny here because legislative safety valves provide curative relief," said the ruling.

Kasirer maintained the U.S. is a safe place for would-be migrants, permitting Canada to deport migrants south "so long as the American system is not fundamentally unfair."

Since March 24, Canada Border Services have identified 484 migrants who attempted to cross the Canada-U.S. border between official ports of entry via Québec.

In the first month alone, border patrols captured 264 people attempting to enter Canada between official ports of entry. They deported 185 individuals to the U.S. and approved 78 migrants to seek asylum. One person voluntarily withdrew their application.

The steady flow of migrants into Canada has recently been a hot political issue, particularly in Québec.

According to government data, nearly two-thirds of asylum claims in Canada last year occurred in Québec, with most coming from Haiti, Turkey, Colombia, Chile, Pakistan and Venezuela.

The Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) said it could take up to 23% of asylum seekers moving forward, contending their " capacity is not unlimited." 

In February, Québec Premier François Legault asked Ottawa to permanently close Roxham Road because of the continued strain migrants put on the province's social services and healthcare systems.

"We cannot give services to so many people...It takes time to build houses. We cannot tomorrow decide to add 36,000 places for them," Legault told reporters.

"We have problems with housing, school capacity, and hospital staff. At some point, Trudeau has to send a new message."

Between March 20, 2020, and January 31, 2023, the feds spent $136 million on temporary accommodations, meals, security, and transport for Roxham migrants.

However, the provinces and municipalities have paid $551.6 million through the Interim Housing Assistance Program since 2017, which covers "extraordinary costs of interim housing for asylum seekers."

To alleviate Québec's concerns, the federal government transported the vast majority of 5,300 migrants to Windsor and Niagara Falls, Ontario. Both cities have requested federal funding to assist with "temporary accommodations." 

The IRCC said about 3,300 migrants seeking asylum in Ontario came through Roxham Road.

The surge of illegal immigration at Roxham in 2021 and 2022 cost taxpayers nearly $87.8 million to pay for "temporary accommodations for unvaccinated asymptomatic asylum seekers without a suitable quarantine plan."

In 2018, only 50 migrants required hotel accommodations, rising to 27,555 in October 2022. However, the closure of Roxham Road on March 24 drastically reduced the occupancy rate of ''migrant hotels,'' which neared two-thirds (64%) last March. 

As of May 21, Immigration Canada revealed about 1% of the rooms remained occupied in Québec. They rented 250 hotel rooms on the taxpayer dime to house only six migrants in Québec.

Between January 2013 and February 2023, Canada received 396,575 asylum seekers — one-quarter of those arrived in 2022 alone at 92,445. 

Ottawa alleged they closed the border in 2020 and 2021 owing to the COVID pandemic, which Trudeau lauded as "reasonably effective." However, the number of migrants entering Canada remained on par or exceeded 2016 data for those years at 23,760 and 25,160 persons, respectively. 

On March 24, the feds pegged the costs to temporarily house migrants at $61.5 million over ten years. But taxpayers will be on the hook for another $14 million contract on July 1 to provide health care and "integration support" for migrants entering Québec.

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