1st Session, 43rd Parliament
Volume 151, Issue 25

Monday, June 22, 2020
The Honourable George J. Furey, Speaker

Citizenship, Immigration and Refugees

United States—Safe Third Country Agreement

Hon. Mary Coyle: Honourable senators, my question is for the Government Representative in the Senate. Senator Gold, I ask this question on behalf of Senator Jaffer. It is regarding the Safe Third Country Agreement Canada has with the United States.

According to the 2004 agreement, Canada and the United States recognize each other as safe places for refugees seeking protection. However, with all the information we have about the inhumane detention cells or cage-like structures used to house people seeking refuge in the U.S.; the thousands of children who were separated from their parents, some of whom went missing; and the problematic way that U.S. law enforcement personnel treat African Americans and other people of colour, it’s clear that the U.S. is not safe anymore.

The question is: When will our government stop returning vulnerable people and their children to a place where the persecution they ran away from continues? Their lives and the lives of their children are at stake. Will the government consider repealing or amending this agreement?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for the question. It’s an important one. The government has been working closely with its counterparts in the United States to make sure that persons who may be turned away from Canada are treated properly in the United States. No one can be happy with the reports that we’ve heard about how migrants and others are treated in those detention centres. It is the position of Canada that this is not an acceptable situation and efforts are being made — and have been, I think, to some degree successful — to ensure that is not the fate that befalls those who may not qualify for admission to Canada.

Temporary Foreign Workers

Hon. Mary Coyle: Honourable senators, I have a supplementary question, again on behalf of Senator Jaffer, for the Government Representative. In light of the fact that there are many refugees or refugee claimants presently working as essential home care workers in Canada, which places them at serious health risks during the COVID pandemic, and given the unmet demand for employees in this important sector, will our government favourably consider their applications? Will it also consider creating pathways to permanent residency or citizenship and dignity for temporary foreign workers providing essential services in our agricultural sector?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for the question. There is no doubt that we in Canada benefit enormously, in general terms, from those workers who are here and no less so than during these extraordinary times of crisis. The government is seriously à l’écoute to stakeholders and representatives and is looking seriously and responsibly at ways in which to assist those who are here providing such essential services.