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Canada PM Justin Trudeau pressured to suspend US refugee agreement in face of ‘unacceptable’ policy

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday the U.S. practice of separating immigrant children from their parents on its southern border was “unacceptable”, even as he resisted pressure to suspend a bilateral agreement designating the United States a “safe” country for refugees.

Trudeau has been under increasing pressure to suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement, a 2004-era pact under which asylum seekers presenting at a land border crossing in either country are turned back and told to apply for refugee status in the first country they arrived in.

The agreement has been under fire for years in Canada from lawyers and advocates who argue the United States is not “safe” for refugees, and that its system is not analogous to Canada’s.

“What is happening in the United States is unacceptable. I cannot imagine what these families are going through. Obviously this is not the way we do things in Canada,” Trudeau told reporters at the parliament buildings on Wednesday.

The comments were by far the harshest by a member of the Canadian government, which is trying to prevent a trade war with the United States and is also struggling to control cross-border migration of its own.
More than 30,000 asylum seekers have illegally crossed the Canada-U.S. border since January 2017, many saying they were fleeing U.S. President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.

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Trudeau has come under increasing political pressure to condemn Washington for the practice of splitting up families and putting children in enclosed detention centers. As recently as Monday, he said he would not play politics with the issue.

This week, former federal Liberals as well as opposition politicians and rights groups called on the federal government to suspend the agreement.

“The United States is no longer ‘safe’ for asylum seekers… We should make crystal clear that we will not be complicit in his mistreatment of refugees,” former diplomats Lloyd Axworthy and Allan Rock wrote in an op-ed in the Globe and Mail this week.

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The Trump administration is facing intense criticism in the United States and abroad over its “zero tolerance” policy which can result in immigrant children being separated from their parents after they cross the U.S. border illegally.

Trump said on Wednesday signed an executive order that he said will keep families together but retain the “zero tolerance” policy.

A court challenge launched last year argues the Safe Third Country Agreement is discriminatory and violates Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

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Recent developments, including child separations and U.S. Attorney-General Jeff Sessions’ decision to disregard domestic violence as grounds for a refugee claim, only reinforce existing arguments against the agreement, said Janet Dench, head of the Canadian Council for Refugees, which is intervening in the case.

Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa and Anna Mehler Paperny in Toronto; editing by Bill Berkrot and Chizu Nomiyama


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected]. Send news tips to: [email protected].
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US financier Jeffrey Epstein appeals bail denial in sex-trafficking case

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Jeffrey Epstein, the financier facing charges of sex trafficking involving dozens of underage girls, has appealed a federal judge’s decision to keep him in a Manhattan jail while he awaits trial.

According to a court notice made public on Tuesday, Epstein will ask the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn the judge’s July 18 rejection of his request to remain under house arrest in his $77 million mansion on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

Epstein has pleaded not guilty and the appeal was expected.  His lawyer Reid Weingarten did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman in Manhattan declined to comment.

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Fox News cuts into Trump’s Turning Point USA speech after he starts rambling about handshakes

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Fox News on Tuesday briefly interrupted a speech being delivered by President Donald Trump at a Turning Point USA summit.

During his speech, Trump started talking about delivering a commencement address at the Air Force Academy.

"They said, sir, would you like to shake the hands of all the cadets? I said how many other? They said 1,100. I said yeah, that sounds okay,” Trump remarked.

“Do other presidents do it? Yes, they do. Do all of them? What they didn’t say is they start, then they peter out. That sun was beaming down, and if some of these guys are great athletes — some of the women, they had some women in the class, their hands were very strong, okay.”

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Hundreds of orgs, political and religious leaders demand Pompeo abolish his anti-LGBTQ ‘Commission on Unalienable Rights’

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'Harmful to the Global Effort to Protect the Rights of All People and a Waste of Resources'

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday was sent letters signed by hundreds of human rights organizations, activists, and supporters, along with religious and political leaders demanding he abolish his newly-formed anti-LGBTQ and anti-women "Commission on Unalienable Rights."

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