The Communist Party of Canada calls on the Trudeau government and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Ahmed Hussen to end meetings with U.S. counterparts discussing expanding and continuing the xenophobic “Safe Third Country Agreement” and instead immediately withdraw from the agreement.
Minister Hussen, over the last two months, has been trying to reach a new deal with the U.S. which would restrict “irregular entry” of refugees into Canada. In fact, it is the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) itself that forces refugees to cross the U.S.-Canadian border at non-official points of entry. If Trudeau’s claims to welcome refugees were sincere, the agreement would have been torn up in 2015 when he and his government were elected.
In 1951, Canada signed the international Refugee Convention and Protocol, which states that Canada must grant protection to all those seeking asylum due to fears of persecution or death in their country of origin. This is Canada’s international legal obligation.
Fourteen years ago, in 2004, the then Liberal government signed the STCA with the U.S. government of George W Bush. It is based on the misleading assumption that both countries are “safe” for refugees, therefore refugees should apply for asylum in the first country they arrive in, either Canada or the U.S. However, the agreement only applies to designated border crossings. Refugees that understandably think they may have a better opportunity to receive asylum in Canada than in Trump’s United States can legally apply for asylum in Canada if they do not cross the border at a designated border crossing. The Canadian government decided to force refugees into a precarious position in 2004, and now they are looking to shut down the U.S.-Canada border for refugee migration altogether.
While Immigration Minister Hussen has been secretive about the discussions he is having with U.S. Homeland Security, he told CBC in late May that, “…the discussions would revolve around making sure that we modernize the agreement in a way that makes it applicable between points of entry”, meaning refugees coming from the U.S. would be turned away no matter the situation they would face in the U.S. or if they are deported back to their home country from the U.S.
The current agreement has led to thousands of refugees risking their physical safety by forcing them away from designated border crossings. Some make long journeys in the middle of winter. One year ago, Mavis Otuteye, a 57 year-old Ghanian refugee died in a ditch from hypothermia while crossing into Manitoba. Seidu Mohammed, another refugee from Ghana who was persecuted for being LGBT, lost all of his fingers on both hands to frostbite on the journey across the same border.
The current shared rhetoric surrounding these crossings by ultra-right groups, the corporate media and even politicians of large parties has enabled this to continue and poses a grave threat that the attack on the rights of refugees and immigrants will be worsened. The situation of refugees forced to cross the border irregularly is being purposefully presented as “illegal” immigration. In fact, the majority of refugee claimants made by persons entering Canada irregularly are granted after reviewing their claims. If there was no STCA there would be more orderly and safe process. Instead we have a manufactured “refugee crisis” that stigmatizes those who fled their country for safety.
Racist and fascist groups use Islamophobic lies and raise the specter of “terrorists sneaking into Canada”. When refugees apply for status, they all are subject to criminal and security checks. Fascist groups like “Storm Alliance” have held at least three rallies at a location where refugees cross into Quebec in order to intimidate and spread racist lies. If terrorism was indeed a major concern in Canada, the first place we should look is at white supremacist individuals and organizations who are responsible for the majority of attacks in North America, including the mass murder of six Muslim men at a Quebec City Mosque in 2017.
Other ultra-right and fascist talking points include blaming refugees for austerity measures adopted by governments across the country controlled by big business. In fact, the small amount of social assistance given to refugees temporarily while they find work pales in comparison to the billions austerity governments spend on military budgets, corporate tax cuts and now bailouts for climate destroying pipelines.
Many of the current refugees crossing into Quebec are from Haiti and Nigeria, and anti-Black racism has put wind in the sails of fascist groups. We should remember that Canada has played a key role in destabilizing Haiti over a number of years and that there are currently 1.7 million displaced people in Nigeria. There are many reasons why these asylum seekers are applying for refugee status.
The Canadian government’s attack on the rights of refugees is being turned on its head and refugees and immigrants are blamed for the precarious situation they are put in. Xenophobic hate speech and hate groups must be pushed back by democratic forces, including those standing in solidarity with refugee and immigrant communities.
The Conservative Party, now led by Andrew Scheer who has close connections with the far-right and xenophobic Rebel Media, has repeatedly called for the expansion of the STCA to include the entire Canadian border. Michelle Rempel, the Conservative Immigration critic has called on Trudeau to “close the loophole” in the agreement, which means denying all refugees coming from the U.S. Shamefully, it looks as though the Liberal government largely agrees.
While Trump tweets racist and xenophobic insults and Trudeau tweets that Canada is welcoming refugees, the situation on the ground is what matters. The United States is a very unsafe place for refugees and immigrants. Many asylum-seekers with no criminal record are jailed in private prisons while their applications are pending and the acceptance rate is plummeting. Whole groups of people are losing their immigration status in the U.S., for example the 57,000 Hondurans who have been in the U.S. for twenty years had their legal status revoked by the Trump administration this spring. Since October, the U.S. has taken 700 children, including more than 100 babies and toddlers away from their detained migrant parents and sent them to facilities across the country. This is part of a new policy to use the separation of families as a deterrent to immigration to the United States. These horrific actions by the United States are clearly the primary reason for more refugees crossing into Canada from the U.S.
When Trump made headlines by calling Africa, Haiti and El Salvador “shit hole countries”, Trudeau declined to comment. Now that Canadian business interests are threatened with Trump’s tariffs suddenly Trudeau has some backbone. The Communist Party of Canada demands that the Canadian government takes a firm stance and condemns the racist and xenophobic policies of the Trump administration. Moreover, this needs to be backed up with a fundamentally different approach to immigration starting with tearing up the STCA. Currently, Canada has 15,000 people awaiting deportation. The current regime based on economic class and family sponsorships for immigration shuts out working-class immigrants from around the world. Canada needs profound democratic immigration reform.
We also call on the federal government to immediately scrap the “The Designated Country of Origin List” which prohibits refugees from more than 40 countries from seeking refugee status in Canada. This agreement is also designed to violate the rights of refugees from 40 specific countries that the government has declared “safe”. Refugees from these countries are treated with more scrutiny than regular claimants and have a harder time getting status. This supposed safe list includes countries with right-wing governments and strong fascist movements that are far from safe, including the United States, Hungary, Poland and Austria. It also includes other “allies” which are extremely violent, such as Israel and Mexico.
The Canadian government itself has been guilty in contributing to instability, death and political persecution around the world as a result of their participation in wars, coups, and other imperialist interventions. The Canadian backed coups in Haiti, Ukraine and Honduras and the Canadian bombing of Syria and Libya are all prime examples. The Canadian government has a moral responsibility to welcome refugees, many of whom are fleeing lethal situations that the government itself helped to create. As climate change worsens creating the expected millions of climate refugees and imperialism’s drive to war grows stronger day-by-day, the crisis of millions displaced by these crimes will also grow. Now is the time to act and fightback against xenophobic immigration laws and the ultra-right.
The Communist Party of Canada fights for democratic immigration reform now!
- End the Safe Third Country Agreement and the Designated Country of Origin list;
- end temporary foreign worker programs and allow a path to citizenship for migrant workers;
- end indefinite immigration detention;
- status for all undocumented residents;
- repeal the Trudeau and Harper police state laws (C51 and C59);
- scrap legislation targeting Muslim immigrants including the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act and Security Certificates.
Central Executive Committee, Communist Party of Canada