OCASI, July 2018
Irregular entry is not illegal
Asylum seekers (in Canada use the term refugee claimant) have the legal right to cross the border and enter Canada to make a refugee claim. Asylum seekers are crossing irregularly – between ports of entry - but that is not illegal. They are doing so because the Safe Third Country Agreement (2004) between Canada and the United States requires Canada to send refugee claimants back to the U.S., with a few exceptions. The Safe Third Country Agreement applies only to refugee claims made at border crossings.
U.S. is not safe for refugees
The Safe Third Country Agreement is based on the assumption that the U.S. is a safe country for refugees. We believe the U.S. is not currently a safe place for refugee claimants given the present administration's anti-refugee and anti-Muslim policies and practices. Refugee claimants are making a refugee claim in Canada because in the US they fear being deported back to their countries of origin where they may face persecution or violence in one form or another.
Canada has international obligations
It is not illegal for people to flee persecution or to cross borders without documents to seek asylum. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 14) states that everyone has the right to seek and enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution. The 1951 UN Refugee Convention stated that refugees should not be penalized for their illegal entry or stay, and should not be returned to a country where they face serious threats to their life or freedom. Canada cannot close the border to people seeking refuge.
Refugees have the right to make a claim
The right to make a refugee claim is protected in Canadian law which builds on Canada's international obligations. The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights of refugee claimants to fundamental justice, and the right to an oral hearing of their claim. This is known as the 'Singh Decision' (April 4, 1985)
There is no queue for refugee claimants
People fleeing persecution have the legal right to make a refugee claim when they arrive at the border. This is the only process for people fleeing persecution and there is no queue. Having made a claim, refugee claimants may have to wait years to have their hearing. People fleeing persecution cannot be asked to wait and make an immigration application.
Refugee claimants don't take services away from Ontarians
Healthcare costs for refugee claimants are for the most part covered by the federal government. Refugee claimants are not eligible for provincial healthcare and many other provincial services. They can apply for social assistance. Housing costs are shared between federal, provincial and municipal governments. Toronto and many of the surrounding municipalities had housing challenges long before the current increase of refugee claimant arrivals. It is wrong to blame refugee claimants for Ontario's housing crisis.
Refugee claimants are not abusing Canada's generosity
Refugee claimants often risk their lives when they flee persecution and seek protection. Canada has a legal obligation to provide protection to refugees and to respect their rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is not a matter of generosity. Canada has a history and strong tradition of social justice and human rights. We should not further victimize refugee claimants, who are among the most vulnerable in society.
- OCASI media release: "Refugee advocates urge Ontario to stay at the table"
- "Taylor: Stop blaming refugee claimants for problems we've chosen not to solve", by Louisa Taylor, Ottawa Citizen, July 10 2018
- Ahmed Hussen criticizes Ontario Tory government's language on asylum seekers by Michael Tutton, Canadian Press (in Globe and Mail), July 9 2018
- "Canadians should beware Premier Doug Ford using 'illegal' refugee claimants as a wedge to drive us apart", by Martin Regg Cohn, Ontario Politics Columnist, Toronto Star, July 6 2018
- "Federal Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen wants Doug Ford's Ontario to continue working with Ottawa", by Carl Meyer & Fatima Syed, National Observer, July 5th 2018
- Amnesty International – Canada: "The US is less safe than ever for refugees, evidence filed in court challenge shows"
- Canadian Council for Refugees - Did you know... ? Facts about refugees and refugee claimants in Canada
- Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO) - Refugee Claim Flowchart