Canadian law school students band together to help refugees banned by Trump

Students from all 22 Canadian law schools are banding together to compile research that could help refugees banned by U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent executive orders. 

“We’ve seen a lot of hatred, Islamophobia and racism being passed around in really frightening ways, and we want to show as a student body and as people in the world that we don’t stand with that,” said Leila Geggie Hurst, a third year law student at the University of Victoria. 

This Saturday, students and faculty will take part in a 12-hour long research marathon to support the Canadian Council of Refugees and find ways to challenge the Canada-US Safe Third Country Agreement. 

Under the agreement, individuals seeking protection must make a claim in the first country they arrive in — either Canada or the U.S.

The agreement requires Canada to send back to the U.S. any claimants entering the country via their shared land border, based on the premise that the U.S. is a safe country in which they can make their asylum claim. 

“There are a lot of concerns that the U.S. might not be the best place to be considered a best safe third country, especially for people coming from the seven countries that are currently under an entry ban from the U.S.,” said Hurst. 

U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order last Friday that restricts travel from seven Muslim countries for 90 days, suspends all refugee admission for 120 days, and bars all Syrian refugees indefinitely.

Canadian law professors and advocates have already called on the federal government to dump the agreement. 

“I think the writing is on the wall that the current situation is one that is not friendly to refugees,” said Donald Galloway, a law professor at the University of Victoria who will be overseeing and helping students with their research. 

Galloway said there is a clause in the agreement that allows members to unilaterally suspend their involvement if one country is not maintaining its commitment.

“The agreement is between two countries which identify that the other is not only a party to the Refugee Convention and the Convention Against Torture, but is also living up to its obligation,” said Galloway. 

Galloway adds that if Canada does not suspend its agreement, it will appear as if it is complicit in the conduct of the other party. 

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