Five local rabbis – Rabbi Lindsey bat Joseph, Rabbi Shmuel Birnham, Rabbi Laura Duhan Kaplan, Rabbi David Mivasair and Rabbi Dan Moskovitz – are among the 33 signatories to a public statement issued July 11 calling upon the Trudeau government to suspend Canada’s Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States. The 33 rabbis from across the country represent a diversity of Canadian Jewry.
The statement calls for the agreement to be suspended “until such time that Canadians can be confident that the United States is in fact a country to which refugee claimants can be returned safely.
“Our own Jewish people’s history instructs us of the necessity to find safe refuge in times of turmoil and lethal threat.
“Our people’s spiritual legacy teaches us that we must not stand idly by the blood of our sisters and brothers, regardless of where they are from.
“The Trump administration’s decision to separate children from their families seeking refuge along the U.S.-Mexican border and its neglect of a plan to reunite them seems to us to amply demonstrate that the U.S. is not a safe country to which refugees should be returned.”
The statement notes that the “agreement requires the Canadian government to review continually the human rights record of the U.S. There were calls to end the agreement in January 2017, when the Trump administration implemented its travel and immigration ban. At this time, it is clear beyond any reasonable doubt that Canada must review and re-evaluate the U.S. qualification as a safe third country.
“Nearly 2,000 children entering the U.S. for the purposes of claiming asylum between April and May have been separated from their families and are being held at detention centres. No one knows the effects of this trauma on these youth, but the human rights abuses are grotesque. According to ACLU, HRW, Amnesty International and media reports, minors are being held in metal cages, given foil blankets and, in many cases, without any visual stimuli in the format of books or toys. In some cases, parents are told their children will be taken for a bath but are not returned. Teenagers in cages are required to care for the younger children, including diaper changes. At one detention centre, staff are not allowed to console, lift or even touch the children, no matter how much agony or fear the child may express. Some children being held are still breastfeeding.”
The Canadian rabbis, “cognizant of our people’s own history as desperate refugees and our tradition of seeking justice … urge the Trudeau government to acknowledge that the United States is not a safe third country and to suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement until the U.S. meets its requirements.”