Canada top court will not hear U.S. refugee case

Thu Feb 5, 2009 12:16pm EST
 
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Supreme Court of Canada declined on Thursday to hear activists' claims that Canada should not send refugees back to the United States because it is not a "safe" country for them.

Human rights groups had wanted the high court to declare unconstitutional a U.S.-Canadian agreement that allows Canada to turn back asylum seekers at the border who arrived first in the United States.

The agreement, signed in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, was designed to prevent double claims and "asylum shopping", but human rights groups assert that it endangers refugees.

By refusing to hear the appeal, the Supreme Court let the bilateral agreement stand. As usual, it gave no reasons for its decision.

"This is an unmitigated victory for the rule of law," said a spokesman for Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.

"We believe that through international co-operation with the United States, we can handle refugee claims in an efficient manner, reduce abuse of the system and share the responsibility of providing protection to those in need," said spokesman Alykhan Velshi.

A Canadian Federal Court judge shocked both the Canadian and U.S. governments in November 2007 by ruling that the United States was not a safe country for refugees and by declaring the bilateral agreement unconstitutional.

The Federal Court of Appeals overturned that in June, saying Ottawa had done everything it should have done in examining whether the United States was safe for refugees.   Continued...