Close the Safe Third Country loophole: Jason Kenney
Published Sunday, February 26, 2017 7:00AM EST
Last Updated Sunday, February 26, 2017 9:14AM EST
OTTAWA -- The federal government should eliminate a loophole that encourages asylum seekers to cross the border illegally, former Conservative immigration minister Jason Kenney says.
Canada has seen an increase in the number of refugee claimants walking over the border from the U.S. to request asylum in the weeks following U.S. President Donald Trump's attempt to ban travellers from seven Muslim-majority countries. Under the Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the U.S., refugee claimants in one country can't make the same claim on the other side of the border.
But the agreement only applies to those who make their claims at official border crossings. If they manage to cross in an open area and hit Canadian soil, they are entitled to a hearing.
The risks of crossing illegally -- for example, walking across a dark field in the middle of a Manitoba winter -- has led advocates to call for the government to suspend the safe third country agreement.
But Kenney says the government should simply close the loophole.
"We should not suspend [the agreement], we should seek to eliminate those exemptions in my view," Kenney said in an interview with Evan Solomon, host of CTV's Question Period.
In the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, Kenney said, Canada and the U.S. came up with an agreement that said those seeking protection have to do so in the country they're in.
"And the U.S. has a fair, just, independent asylum system," he said.
"It's not run by Donald Trump. It's run by the independent American judiciary, the same judiciary that struck down his executive order."
The problem is the exemption that allows people to enter Canada illicitly to make a refugee claim "is incentivizing people coming in illegally and dangerously. We want regular, safe, legal migration, not unsafe illegal migration," Kenney said.
Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, in an interview on Question Period, echoed Kenney's comments
"The U.S. domestic asylum system is the way it was before the executive orders were issued," Hussen said.
"It has no impact on government-resettled refugees, which is what the executive order impacted, and [which] was overturned by the courts."
The asylum system, Hussen agreed with Kenney, is monitored by the American judiciary.
"The U.S. executive doesn't actually monitor the agreement. As of today, and we continue to monitor the situation very closely, the U.S. asylum system is available to those that are seeking asylum."
Kenney says Trump doesn't define conservatism in any way.
"Unfortunately I think some of what Donald Trump has done has created a false dichotomy, a false choice, between the kind of utopian idea of open borders and a kind of xenophobic reaction to immigration. What we need is a balance," Kenney said
"I think he's a populist who used to be a liberal democrat. I think there's a danger that some of what he's doing will cause brand contamination for conservatism."