OTTAWA – A physician’s organization wants a review of an agreement that it says is preventing refugees coming from the U.S. to seek asylum in Canada.
The College of Family Physicians of Canada says it is worried about the health of migrants who have suffered from exposure to extreme winter cold after crossing into Manitoba and other provinces.
Dr. David White, president of the college, says the Safe Third Country Agreement needs to be reviewed due to uncertainty about the U.S. order to place travel restrictions on people from seven Muslim-majority countries.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s executive order was suspended by a judge pending a legal challenge in the U.S. courts.
White says the 35,000-member college opposes the restrictions because of the risks it creates for vulnerable people.
He says the college also strongly opposes all expressions of xenophobia and Islamophobia.
“These changes warrant a review of the Safe Third Country Agreement which prevents refugees from entering Canada from the U.S. to seek asylum,” the college said in a release.
“Our organization, its members and their patients come from all religions, cultures and ethnicities and we stand together in support of equity and dignity for all.”
Under the Canada-U.S. agreement, refugee claimants are required to request refugee protection in the first safe country they arrive in, unless they qualify for an exception. If they manage to get on Canadian soil and are then arrested, they can stay while their refugee applications are processed.
Some immigration groups have called on the federal government to repeal the refugee agreement so that people fleeing the U.S. can go to official border crossings instead of sneaking through fields and risking frostbite or death.
The federal government said earlier this month it saw no need to make the change.
Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said Canada is compassionate when it comes to refugees.
“We have a system in place that is one of the most compassionate refugee systems in the world,” Hussen said in the House on Thursday.
“The U.S. executive order has had no impact on domestic asylum policy. Each and every eligible asylum claimant has access to a fair hearing and each case is assessed on its merits.”