The NDP is urging the Pallister government to lobby Ottawa to suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement with the U.S. in order to protect refugee asylum seekers and support Emerson residents, immigration critic Nahanni Fontaine said today. Fontaine also urged the provincial government to work with Ottawa to lift the cap on private sponsorship of refugees.
“Uncertainty and fear caused by the unprecedented U.S. ban on refugees and citizens of seven predominantly Muslim nations are causing many people to attempt to cross the border from the U.S. in dangerously cold winter weather,” Fontaine said. “This is causing hardship for refugees and placing an unfair burden on residents of Emerson and the surrounding area. It’s also creating legitimate feelings of insecurity in Emerson.”
According to statistics provided to media by the Canadian Border Services Agency, more than 400 people have crossed the border seeking asylum since April of last year. That compares with 168 in the 2014-15 fiscal year and 68 in 2013-14.
Under the Safe Third Country Agreement, any refugees in the U.S. who present themselves to Canadian border officials must be handed over to U.S. officials. Suspending this agreement will permit asylum seekers to go directly to Canadian border officials and avoid walking through snowy fields in hazardous conditions, while also easing the burden on Emerson residents, Fontaine said.
Among groups that have already called for suspending the agreement are: the Canadian Council for Refugees, Amnesty International, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers.
“We’re also calling on the Pallister government to lobby Ottawa to lift the cap on privately sponsored refugees,” Fontaine said. “Canadians are committed to the values of openness and tolerance and we should welcome refugees and asylum seekers in their time of need.”
Fontaine said the NDP will introduce a resolution during the next session calling on all political parties to unite to help protect refugees, support residents in the Emerson area and ensure the security of all refugees and Manitobans.