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Parliamentary committee calls for modernized Safe Third Country Agreement

OTTAWA — A parliamentary committee is calling for Canada’s Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States to include new exemptions allowing some asylum seekers to make claims in Canada after arriving south of the border.

The agreement, first signed in 2004, means asylum seekers must make their claim wherever they arrive first — and they are turned away if they try to cross the border to make a claim in the other country.

But the House of Commons immigration committee tabled a report today that calls for Canada to negotiate exceptions to that rule, particularly when it comes to people who have experienced gender-based violence. 

Immigration lawyer Maureen Silcoff told the committee in November that claimants who seek asylum due to female genital mutilation, domestic violence or the fear of sexual assault face more-restrictive laws in the U.S. and are more likely to be offered protection in Canada.

U.S. President Joe Biden pledged to restore asylum provisions for domestic violence survivors in 2021, but the committee says there is still concern about the viability of gender-based claims made on American soil.

The committee also recommends that the two countries reinstate an exemption to the agreement that allowed people to claim asylum at the Canadian border if they are from a country to which Canada does not conduct deportations.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 16, 2023.

The Canadian Press

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