Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 17, 2003
Federal 'safe third country' agreement worries bishops
By ART BABYCH
"Many groups of asylum seekers transit through United States' territory because it is impossible for them to come directly to Canada."
- Bishop Jean Gagnon
"This agreement forces most refugees to seek protection in the first of the two countries in which they set foot," noted the social affairs commission of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. "It will have broad and negative implications for many of these, our vulnerable brothers and sisters."
In a letter to Immigration Minister Denis Coderre, commission chair Bishop Jean Gagnon pointed out that in 2001, 35 per cent of refugee claims - 14,000 people - were made at U.S.-Canada border points. "Asylum seekers may have many reasons to request asylum here rather than with our southern neighbour. Many groups of asylum seekers transit through United States' territory because it is impossible for them to come directly to Canada."
Latin Americans in particular, use the United States as a "bridge" to Canadian soil, said Gagnon. "It is conceivable that U.S. foreign policy may have supported precisely those whom they are fleeing, or that the U.S.A. would not act as a 'safe' asylum for them."
The commission also asked Coderre to implement the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, passed last June, by announcing "the long-promised" appeal process for refugee claimants.
"We believe that your action to implement a feasible appeal process would greatly improve the Canadian refugee determination process, one of the few in the Western nations still to lack such an important mechanism," it said.
As well, the letter said the United Nations High Commission on Refugees has reported that one in every 162 persons on the planet is a refugee or internally displaced person. "The astounding human need that this figure suggests appears in stark contrast to the recent precipitous drop in refugee claims made in Canada (from 45,000 in 2001 to 33,000 in 2002)," it said.
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.