Federal Court declares Canada U.S. refugee pact unconstitutional

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    Ottawa: A federal judge has struck down a key agreement on refugees between Canada and the United States, but gave Ottawa six months of breathing room to respond to the landmark decision.
    In a keenly awaited ruling, Federal Court Justice Ann Marie McDonald said Wednesday that elements of the law underpinning the Safe Third Country Agreement violate the constitutional guarantee of life, liberty and security.
    Under the agreement, which took effect in 2004, Canada and the U.S. recognize each other as safe places to seek protection.
    It means Canada can turn back potential refugees who arrive at land ports of entry along the Canada-U.S. border on the basis they must pursue their claims in the U.S., the country where they first arrived.
    Potential refugees arriving from the U.S. by air, by sea or between land ports are eligible to have their claims referred to Canadian officials. The exception has spurred the arrival of thousands of people in Canada through unofficial border crossings in recent years.

    By Jim Bronskill
    and Stephanie Levitz
    The Canadian Press