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Media release: Thirteen groups and organizations send open letter urging MP Andy Fillmore to stand up for refugee rights in Canada

For immediate release

(Halifax, NS) On Tuesday, May 14th, thirteen groups and organizations in Halifax issued an open letter to Member of Parliament Andy Fillmore, urging him to stand up for refugee rights in Canada. In particular, they urged Fillmore to call on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to withdraw proposed amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Act in Bill C-97, and to scrap, rather than expand, the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement.

In their open letter, they speak out against anti-refugee and anti-immigrant measures buried in the Liberal government’s 392 page budget implementation bill, C-97. This includes barring asylum seekers who’ve previously filed a refugee claim in the U.S., the U.K., Australia or New Zealand from making a refugee claim in Canada – even if they have never had a hearing in that country. Under these proposed rules, refugee claimants would not have the right to an oral hearing if deemed ineligible, violating the Supreme Court of Canada’s 1985 Singh decision.

Bill C-97, tabled on March 19th, is currently in the committee stage. Seidu Mohammed, a 24 year old man who lost his fingers due to frostbite while crossing by foot into Winnipeg to file a refugee claim, testified before the finance committee on May 9th. He made a successful refugee claim in Canada after his refugee claim was rejected in the U.S. Under these proposed new rules, he would have been sent back to the U.S. and likely deported back to his home country, where he faces persecution. He told the committee: “This bill would put a lot of people at risk and I don’t think it should be passed.”

“The Liberals are exacerbating a growing wave of far-right rhetoric in Canadian politics –  in advance of the next federal election – that has quite literally put targets on migrants and refugees. We must stand with our migrant neighbours and say no to the inhumane and appalling Bill C-97,” said Solidarity Halifax organizer, Tina Yeonju Oh.

In March, the Liberal government also signaled its intention to expand the Canada – U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) to make it more restrictive. The STCA already closes the door to most asylum seekers at the border, considering the U.S. to be a safe country for refugees. Signatories to the open letter stress that the U.S. is not a safe or fair place for refugees to have their cases heard, noting that the threats they face have escalated under the Trump administration. They call for Canada to instead do away with the agreement.

Stacey Gomez, Maritimes Coordinator for the Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network, stated: “The STCA forces asylum-seekers crossing from the U.S. to do so irregularly so they can have their asylum case heard in Canada, which is dangerous under harsh weather conditions.” She added: “It saddens me to know that Mr. Mohammed lost his fingers because of the STCA.”

Stacey Gomez speaks to MP Andy Fillmore on Bill C-97 on May 11, 2019

The letter is signed by: Canadian Federation of Students Nova Scotia; Council of Canadians; Educators for Social Justice Nova Scotia; Fight for $15 Nova Scotia; Food Against Facism Halifax; Halifax Refugee Clinic; Industrial Workers of the World K’jipuktuk – Halifax; No one is illegal – Halifax; Nova Scotia Public Interest Research Group; KAIROS Halifax;  Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network – Halifax Committee; Rainbow Refugee Association of Nova Scotia; and Solidarity Halifax.

In the letter, they urge Fillmore “to stand up for justice and to say no to the racism and xenophobia which these proposed changes represent.” To date, Fillmore has been silent on these issues.

Media Contact:Stacey Gomez,