Friday will decide whether the agreement between the US-Canada to control the flow of asylum seekers infringes on their fundamental rights.
Canada and the United States are recognized by the Safe Third Country Agreement, enacted in 2004, as secure locations where potential refugees can seek protection.
As a result of the agreement, it is against the law for refugees to cross the border and apply for asylum in either of the two nations in which they arrive.
Because the United States is not safe for many asylum seekers, opponents of the treaty asked the highest court to declare that the legislation supporting the pact violates the person’s right to life, liberty, and security.
To Supreme Court justices, the Canadian government argued that returnees could access fair asylum and detention procedures south of the border.
In March, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and American President Joe Biden agreed to extend the treaty to include all 8,900 kilometers of the shared border, not just official crossings.
Before then, asylum seekers who arrived between official entry points along the land border could file claims in Canada even though they had first come to the United States.
Because returning individuals to the United States puts them at risk of detention and other rights violations, opponents of the pact claim that it violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The Supreme Court’s decision will end the lengthy legal dispute that several refugee claimants first started in Federal Court in 2007.
As public interest parties, Amnesty International, the Canadian Council of Churches, and the Canadian Council for Refugees also participated in the proceedings.
The initial challenge was won, but it was overturned later. The same group of organizations made the same attempt again in 2017 with the same result.
The applicants, who are El Salvador, Ethiopia, and Syria citizens, arrived from the United States at a Canadian land entry port in search of refugee protection.
Federal Court Justice Ann Marie McDonald concluded in her 2020 decision that the Safe Third Country Agreement causes ineligible claimants to be imprisoned by U.S. authorities.
She wrote that detention and its repercussions violate the rights guaranteed by Section 7 of the Constitution and are “inconsistent with the spirit and objective” of the refugee agreement.
“The evidence clearly demonstrates that those returned to the United States by Canadian officials are detained as a punishment,” the statement reads.
In 2021, her decision was overturned by the Federal Court of Appeal.
According to federal data, individuals who crossed the border outside of an official crossing received 20,891 claims for refugee status in Canada last year.
Before the agreement was extended to cover the entire border in 2023, Canada received 14,192 refugee claims from border crossers who were not following the rules.
As a result of the agreement’s expansion this year, potential asylum seekers no longer had access to legitimate crossings like Roxham Road in Quebec.
Before Trudeau and Biden announcing that update, arguments in the case were heard by the Supreme Court.
According to Amnesty International, the updated agreement makes the situation for asylum seekers in Canada even more dangerous and unfair.