Canadian lawyers will have important work ahead of them as a result of a controversial executive order by U.S. President Donald Trump, says Sukanya Pillay, executive director and general counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
The executive order — released Jan. 27 — suspended the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days. It also stops nationals from Yemen, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Iran and Iraq from going into the United States for 90 days.
“I think Canadian lawyers have a lot of work ahead of them.
“One is the immediate response that we can provide to individuals who are going to be stranded at Canadian airports because they cannot board planes if they’re affected by this order,” says Pillay.
The CCLA is calling on the Canadian government to take eight steps in the wake of the order, including boosting the number of refugees accepted into the country and implementing procedures to take applications from asylum seekers impacted by the ban.
“When you have a powerful global actor professing isolationism, and flouting — appearing to flout — international law, even if it’s for only 90 days, it does set off repercussions that are very concerning,” she says.
Pillay says the CCLA is recommending that Canada suspend the U.S.-Canada Safe Third Country Agreement.
In 2002, the two countries signed the agreement, which sets out that “refugee claimants are required to request refugee protection in the first safe country they arrive in, unless they qualify for an exception to the Agreement.”
“[A]t this time, if the U.S. is willing to deport people who are fleeing persecution to the risk of human rights violations, then I think we have a legal and moral obligation to not abide by that agreement and allow any asylum seeker to make their claim here in Canada,” says Pillay.
Pillay also says there is also work ahead for corporate and commercial lawyers, as well as human rights and civil liberties lawyers, regarding bundled agreements between Canada and the United States.
“[I]n terms of intelligence sharing and alliances in the global counter-terror fight, we have numerous information-sharing agreements with the United States, and I think that it’s very important that we look at those information-sharing agreements immediately and we set clear limits on what we’re willing to share,” she says.
Stephen Green, senior partner at Green and Spiegel LLP, says he believes that the “divisiveness” of many policies of the Trump administration will push people out of the United States and from considering moving to the country.
“I think that the concept of multiculturalism of Canada is so successful in Canada, and that’s what draws so many people to come here and work, and move,” says Green.
Green says the move might create an opportunity for Canadian employers who specialize in areas such as IT, and it may be able to attract educated professionals from the seven affected countries who cannot extend their visas in the United States.
“We’ve seen a huge increase of very, very successful business people who do not like the Trump policies coming here to set up their businesses here, because they just don’t know what’s going to happen in the next four years with him,” he says.
Green says Canada should continue to accept asylum seekers.
“If these are asylum seekers that are coming from regimes like Iran and various other places, we should [accept them] absolutely,” says Green.
The executive order by Trump states that, “Deteriorating conditions in certain countries due to war, strife, disaster, and civil unrest increase the likelihood that terrorists will use any means possible to enter the United States.”
“In order to protect Americans, the United States must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles,” it says. “The United States cannot, and should not, admit those who do not support the Constitution, or those who would place violent ideologies over American law.”