Canadian law students participate in research-a-thon for refugees

Law students across Canada took part in a joint research effort on Feb. 4 to review legal arguments that could help individuals targeted by the proposed U.S. travel ban.

The travel ban, which has now been refuted by the Supreme Court in America, prohibits people with citizenship from seven countries of primarily Muslim faith from entering the U.S., and stopped the intake of Syrian refugees until further notice.

The 12-hour “research-a-thon” event was organized by three law students at McGill University, and included over 800 participants from all 22 of Canada’s law schools, according to Brodie Noga, one of the event’s organizers. Participants also raised $8,800 in donations for the Canadian Council of Refugees.

Noga said the idea began as a way to get McGill students talking about the effects of the travel ban before it turned into a transnational campaign.

Noga said the travel ban is “a flagrant violation of the [United Nations] refugee convention,” and said the executive order calls Canada’s Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States into question.

As part of the US-Canada Smart Border Action Plan, the Safe Third Country Agreement states 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.”

According to Global News, one of the aims of the research event was to search for legal flaws that could lead to the Safe Third Country Agreement being overturned.

Noga said the agreement doesn’t always protect claimants. With the threat of deportation looming for those who claim refugee in the US, Canadian media outlets have reported that many  crossed the border into Canada.

Infographic by Shanice Pereira

Noga said he would like to see the Canadian government remove the caps currently placed on the number of privately-sponsored refugees.

“These asylum sponsors are not a burden on the Canadian state,” Noga said. “ . . . The cap on these privately sponsored refugees is arbitrary and should be lifted, as we are in the middle of a refugee crisis.”

While Carleton’s undergraduate law program doesn’t offer legal counsel to refugees, assistant professor Stacy Douglas said many of the courses taught in the program look at the historical causes of important political events.

“Teaching about these topics to non-refugees is, in many ways, just as or more important than doing hands-on work with individual clients,” Douglas said. “It creates an educated population that refuses to digest baseless, scare-mongering narratives about domestic and international threats to state security.”

– Photo by Angela Tilley