The treaty has long been criticized by human-rights advocates who said it tacitly encouraged asylum-seekers to circumvent Canada’s official land borders. MONTREAL — A Canadian court has ruled that a treaty with the United States that allows Canada to turn away asylum-seekers coming from the United States if they originally entered there from a third country violates Canada’s constitution.Human-rights advocates have long criticized the pact, saying it tacitly encourages asylum-seekers to circumvent Canada’s official land borders because if they try to enter at an official crossing, they will be refused entry and returned to the United States, subject to some exceptions.In a case brought by several refugee advocate groups as well as by individual asylum-seekers, the Federal Court of Canada in Ottawa ruled that the bilateral pact, the Safe Third Country Agreement, breached Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees the right to “liberty” and “security.”In a more than 60-page ruling, Justice Ann Marie McDonald cited the conditions asylum-seekers said they had faced while in detention in the United States, including lack of access to adequate health care or legal counsel.She cited the example of Nedira Jemal Mustefa, a Muslim woman from Ethiopia and a litigant in the case, who testified that she had been forced to eat pork in contravention of Muslim dietary laws. She also was held in solitary confinement for one week at the Clinton Correctional Facility in New York State, describing the facility as “freezing cold.”She told the court her experience had been “terrifying, isolating and psychologically traumatic.”In her ruling, the judge wrote that “Canada cannot turn a blind eye to the consequences that befell Ms. Mustefa in its efforts to adhere to” the treaty.
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