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

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

World Refugee Day

Hon. Mary Coyle: Honourable senators, I’m honoured to deliver this statement on behalf of Senator Mobina Jaffer who is unable to be with us here today:

Honourable senators, 20 years ago the UN declared June 20 to be World Refugee Day. And for one day every year we honour all refugees, acknowledging their suffering and also acknowledging their contributions. For one day every year, our social media timelines are filled with messages of support and stories of how much help we had extended.

The rest of the year, though, is another story altogether. The rest of the year, we continue to uphold our Safe Third Country Agreement with the U.S. to deny entry to those seeking asylum in Canada.

Let us remember why people seek asylum, why a family would leave its home behind and escape to a place that is not particularly welcoming. It is not to have a better life. It is to have a life. These are people running to us for safety.

Does anyone imagine what it feels like to live in fear, to live in a state of constant persecution? Can any one of us here imagine what it means to hide with your little children under a fragile roof while fighter jets are flying over your home and bombing your street? Can any of us imagine being hunted by gangs who want to take your daughters to sell them, or who want to kill their father for leaving the gang?

For most Canadians, we are privileged to have never had to live in fear and it is so hard for many of us to even imagine the realities of those seeking asylum.

On World Refugee Day, let’s remember that we — Canadians — continue to send the vulnerable, the weak and the persecuted back to the U.S. as we uphold the Safe Third Country Agreement. It is shocking how we are still considering the U.S. to be safe. We all know about the inhumane refugee detention cells, about the 1,500 missing children and the dozens of our fellow human beings who died. By now, we must all know how the U.S. police treat persons of colour.

We have pledged through international treaties, and through our own speeches, that Canada is compassionate and safe. But upholding an agreement that sends a mother and her children back to the detention prison cells in the U.S. is not compassionate, not ethical and falls far from our Canadian values.

I ask you now at this important point in our collective consciousness — what would it take to repeal this agreement?

Thank you.