Mr. Serge Cormier (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Lib.)
Mr. Speaker, I want to assure the House that the Government of Canada will continue to offer its protection to people in need.
Canada will continue to have an asylum granting system with safeguards in place to ensure that those who would face harm are not sent back to persecution.
The safe third country agreement remains an important tool for Canada and the U.S. to work together on the orderly handling of refugee claims made in our countries. Recent changes in U.S. immigration policy have not impacted the functioning of the U.S. asylum system.
In fact, as the minister has pointed out, the UNHCR representative in Canada has stated that the conditions that prevailed at the time of the agreement in 2004 remain the same today. The safe third country agreement is based on the principle that individuals should seek asylum in the first country they arrive in. This principle is accepted by the United Nations Refugee Agency.
It is important to note that the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement applies to refugee claimants seeking entry to Canada from the United States via land border only. It does not apply to requests for refugee protection made inland. It also does not apply to claims made by people intercepted while entering Canada at a place that is not a legal point of entry.
Foreign nationals from any country may make a claim for asylum in Canada. Immigration officers receiving a refugee claim will decide whether the claim is eligible for referral to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, an independent administrative tribunal that makes decisions on immigration and refugee matters.
The Immigration and Refugee Board decides who is a convention refugee or a person in need of Canada's protection. Once a claim is made, individuals may also apply for social assistance, which is the responsibility of provinces and territories.
While the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement remains an important tool, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act requires the continual review of countries designated as safe third countries to ensure that the conditions that led to the designation continue to be met.
We will continue to monitor this evolving situation, and we are working with the United States as it reviews parts of its resettlement program. The Government of Canada will continue to honour this country's tradition of compassion and fairness, values that are a great source of pride for all Canadians.
Subtopic: Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship