In June there were 1,500 claims for refugee status filed in Canada, in a July 24, 2020 story. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Asylum claims being filed in Canada continue to rise slightly despite pandemic

1,500 claims filed in June

OTTAWA — The number of asylum claims being filed in Canada continues to rise slightly despite ongoing global travel restrictions.

The latest figures from the Immigration Department show 1,500 claims for refugee status were filed in Canada in June, up from 1,400 in May.

For the first time since April — the first full month of major travel restrictions designed to slow the spread of COVID-19 — refugee claims were filed at airports. There were also multiple claims at marine ports.

Also slightly on the rise were the number of people stopped by the RCMP trying to cross irregularly into Canada: 32 in June, up from 21 in May.

Currently, Canada is turning back those who show up at unmarked border crossings, one of several measures being taken at the border in response to the pandemic.

How many people will continue to attempt to enter Canada irregularly may change in the coming months, in the wake of a Federal Court decision Wednesday that the Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the U.S. violates the charter.

The agreement is the reason just over 3,000 people this year have tried to cross irregularly into Canada in order to file for asylum. Under the deal, they would be turned away at formal border points.

They can still, however, lodge a claim once they are inside Canada.

But Federal Court Justice Ann Marie McDonald said Wednesday that elements of the law underpinning the agreement violate the constitutional guarantee of life, liberty and security.

Under the agreement, which took effect in 2004, Canada and the U.S. recognize each other as safe places to seek protection.

That means Canada can turn away those who arrive at land ports of entry along the Canada-U.S. border on the basis they must pursue asylum in the U.S., the country where they first arrived.

In the long-running court case, the applicants, who are citizens of El Salvador, Ethiopia and Syria, arrived at a Canadian land entry port from the U.S. and sought refugee protection but were refused.

They had argued in court that when returning ineligible refugee claimants to the U.S., Canada exposes them to risks in the form of detention and other rights violations.

In her decision, McDonald concluded the consequences ineligible claimants may face upon return to the U.S. are “inconsistent with the spirit and objective” of the refugee agreement and amount to a violation of the rights guaranteed by Section 7 of the charter.

The judgement, however, was suspended for six months to allow the government to find a solution.

Talks between Canada and the U.S. to update the Safe Third Country Agreement have been underway for a while, and rights advocates in both countries have urged Canada to use the ruling as opportunity to push them forward.

“Human Rights First notes that the Trump administration’s treatment of asylum seekers is now even worse than it was at the time evidence was submitted in this case,” the non-partisan American group said in a statement.

“In light of the court’s decision and this ongoing deterioration, Human Rights First urges the Canadian government to take this opportunity to withdraw from the ‘safe third country’ agreement.’”

The government can’t sit on its hands and do nothing, said Queen’s University professor and immigration law expert Sharry Aiken.

She said the agreement should be suspended immediately, as the while the court was only dealing with the legality of the deal, it continues to impact refugee claims.

“In my view the Canadian government has a responsibility to act immediately to prevent further violations of our constitution and the international human rights commitments to which Canada has agreed to be bound,” she said.

“It also means that it would be unconscionable for the government to appeal this ruling and seek a stay of the ruling.”

Current travel restrictions in place to slow the spread of COVID-19 appear to have placed downward pressure overall on asylum claims.

By the end of June 2019, 26,725 claims were filed, compared with 16,865 asylum claims filed so far this year.

The rise in June of this year was due to an increase in people already in Canada making claims at government offices, as opposed to those requesting asylum immediately upon arrival in Canada.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 24, 2020.

Asylum seekers

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Shaelynn Decock and her dog Taco, who has been missing since Aug. 26. Photo Submitted
Sylvan Lake woman looking for closure for her stolen dog

Shaelynn Decock says it has been two months since she last saw her dog Taco

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw updates media on the Covid-19 situation in Edmonton on Friday March 20, 2020. nbsp;Alberta is reporting it's highest daily number of COVID-19 cases, with 364 new infections. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta confirmed 323 COVID-19 cases Tuesday

Central zone active cases at 145

Jay “Chef” Scotian poses for a photo in his new location in Sylvan Lake. Eat Coast Market and Grill will be holding a “Donations for Donairs” fundraiser for Haley Wile on Oct. 24. Photo by Megan Roth/Sylvan Lake News
Sylvan Lake business fundraising for local woman paralyzed in car accident

Haley Wile was in a serious car accident which left her paralyzed from the waist down

Brady Durkin. Photo Submitted
Young Sylvan Lake golfer places in the Top 10 in the country

Brady Durkin finished the National Championship tournament in 8th place recently

Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the chief medical officer of health, receive flu shot. Photo via Government of Alberta
COVID-19: One more death in central zone

Ponoka County on province’s watchlist

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives for an announcement at a news conference in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020.	Kenney is isolating at home after one of his ministers tested positive for COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Alberta premier isolating after minister tests positive for COVID-19

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is isolating at home

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
British Columbia man dies during ski trip near glacier west of Calgary

Kananaskis Public Safety and Alpine Helicopters responded around 2:30 p.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, following a week-long break for the House of Commons. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
One crisis after another for Trudeau since last federal election one year ago

It has been a year of unprecedented calamity and crisis

Alberta's provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Monday, July 6, 2020. Advisers are reportedly recommending Alberta's kindergarten to Grade 4 arts and social studies curriculum remove all references to residential schools because it's "too sad" for young children. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Advisers suggest Alberta students not learn about residential schools before Grade 4

Documents suggest children younger than Grade 4 are too emotionally vulnerable to learn about residential schools

robbery
UPDATE: Shooting suspect arrested by Wetaskiwin/Camrose RCMP

Rimbey RCMP had responded to a complaint of an armed robbery at the Bluffton City General Store

File photo
RCMP’s response to online discussions about anti-racism demonstrations

Ponoka RCMP Staff Sgt.’s comments misattributed online

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a news conference Tuesday October 20, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau and his family decide against trick-or-treating this year due to COVID

Adhering to local health authorities, Trudeau urges Canadians to do their part in following those guidelines

Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday February 4, 2020 in Ottawa. The Alberta government is welcoming news that Ottawa has approved an expansion of the Nova Gas Transmission Ltd. gathering system in Alberta — while condemning federal delays that it says cost this summer’s construction season. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Alberta welcomes federal approval of gas pipeline expansion while criticizing delay

The project is expected to create up to 2,920 direct jobs during construction, the federal release said

Most Read