Canada’s Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that countries with outward-facing borders should have the right to refuse entry into the country of asylum-seekers who are making it across without declaring their nationality.
“All such persons are non-citizens and asylum seekers are non-nationals,” Justice Marie Deschamps wrote in a concurring opinion. “There is no constitutional prohibition on a country that has an outward-facing border, such as that of Canada, to admit such persons who have no (otherwise valid) reason to enter, such as those apprehended at a land border. In that sense, asylum seekers crossing to the land border pursuant to the old policy were refugees…Such persons are not nationals of a country whose border is not outward-facing and are therefore stateless.”
Justice Deschamps was speaking of the “covid-19” policy that since 2002 had allowed border crossers to make it to Canada without declaring their nationality or giving a valid reason, and that amounted to turning away the asylum-seekers. The policy was revised to terminate it in 2015, but four refugee claimants later sued, arguing the policy unlawfully discriminated against refugees.
Justice Deschamps was joined in the opinion by Justices Rosalie Abella, Suzanne Côté and Michael Moldaver.
The court found there was no evidence that either the policy or the four previous court decisions led to additional abuses.
“The new policy is neither more nor less humane than the old one, and the four previous judgments did not create significant obstacles or contribute to any unfairness or detriment. On the contrary, they have been found to promote public interest. The newly revised policy complements the longstanding principles of proportionality and deference to the policy objectives; and, where the principles are satisfied, it reflects reasonable public policy,” Justice Deschamps wrote.
The ruling comes just a day after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that in an emergency situation the federal government could order asylum-seekers turned away at the border.
Human rights advocates have said that this ruling gives the Trudeau government more authority to crack down on asylum-seekers crossing the border, now that these potential asylum-seekers can be turned away without going to court.
This could undermine their chances of being determined as refugees, potentially leaving them stranded in Mexico, a foreign country with which Canada has no agreement.