Justin Trudeau: Stand Up Against the Separation and Detainment of Migrant Children

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Dear Prime Minister Justin Trudeau,

We as Canadians urge you to uphold Canadian values and to set an example to let it be known that we do not support the attrocities being faced by migrant families in the United States under the current crackdown of the Trump administration, nor do we condone the occurences within Canada itself. This is a human rights violations issue, and as history has taught us, by keeping silent on the issue we are complicit and must take a stand.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) confirmed on the weekend that nearly 2,000 migrant children were separated from their families between April 19 and May 31, when the Trump administration was cracking down on illegal immigration along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The UN has said separating families amounts to an "arbitrary and unlawful" interference in family life and calls it a "serious violation" of the rights of children.

The following words are an excerpt from the articles linked below, words by Nhung Tuyet Tran (the Star) and Kathleen Harris (CBC News): 

"Like so many of my fellow Canadians, I have been horrified by how the United States Department of Homeland Security has separated at least 2,000 children from their families since April 19.

These migrants have risked their lives as they walked toward the U.S. border, seeking refuge from violence and extreme poverty only to have the wealthiest and most powerful country in the world deny them basic human dignity.

It is easy to think we can relax on our summer patios, congratulate ourselves on being compassionate, enlightened Canadians rather than cruel Americans, but that would ignore both broader truths and opportunities where Canada could make a positive difference for these (and similar) refugees, but has not.

According to a study by Hannah Gros, a senior fellow at the International Human Rights Program at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, the Canadian Borders and Customs Patrol detained more than 200 children between 2011 and 2015, 85 per cent of whom were under the age of six, and many as young as two. As we look with horror at the detention and separation of families in the United States, we must shine a light on our own policies. 

All those who have been appalled by the images and sounds they heard of crying children on the U.S.-Mexican border should call for the prime minister to address the detention of young children and the separation of families in Canada. At the same time, Canada could hold itself up as a country whose ideals enable it to be a beacon of hope for those in distress.

We must end the detention of children at immigration holding centres in Canada, rescind the Safe Third Country Agreement, and revisit the government’s resettlement policies, which often leave the most vulnerable refugees behind.

This pact between Canada and the U.S. requires that refugee claimants make asylum applications in the country in which they first set foot, effectively allowing Canada to turn away refugees who entered through the U.S. first. The agreement made sense when both the United States and Canada shared similar policies toward the treatment of refugees, but endangers lives as those who could be offered safe haven are turned away at border crossing points.

This is a non-partisan issue, but if Trudeau refuses to do so, perhaps it is time for courageous members of Parliament from his own party to take a stand. The world is watching and history will judge how we act in response to this humanitarian crisis, not by our words alone."

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, as well as former first lady Laura Bush, leaders from faith communities, international human rights groups as well as a growing number of Republican legislators, are all condemning the policy.

Trump’s separation policy may prove to be the defining moment after which Canadians no longer accept the Safe Third Country agreement. Paul Clark asked, “Will this be the moment when Canadian society says it isn’t safe for refugees in the U.S., that we can’t put up with this anymore?” 

"Failing to denounce the U.S. and shred the agreement would amount to a departure from Canada's record of leading on humanitarian issues and would send the wrong message to the world," Daghighian said.

NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan said the developments south of the border underscore the fact that the U.S. is no longer a 'safe third country'.

She called it "astounding" that the Liberal government would consider keeping Canada in an agreement with a country that is flagrantly flouting international law on the rights of refugees and children.

"If we continue on with the status quo in the face of this inhumane development, then Canada is complicit to the situation," she said.

Though it does not occur on the same scale or frequency, Canada needs to also stop separating children.

Fellow Canadians, please do not stand idly by, contact your local MPs, MPPs, and let the world know that we as Canadians would like to see justice, compassion, and empathy for these children and their families. 




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