Press Release: Asylum Seekers Continue to be Turned Away from Canadian Border

Misinformation about Border Conditions Is Putting Migrants at Risk

Detroit, MI – 28 August 2020

Growing numbers of people are traveling to the US-Canada border with the hopes of crossing into Canada to claim refugee status. However, most people are not permitted to enter Canada and are directed back to the US. Restrictions on who can enter Canada are in place both at official ports of entry and at unofficial crossings such as the one at Roxham Road, New York. There is a significant risk that people directed back will be detained in the US Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE) and placed in removal proceedings. 

Due to the COVID-19 border closure, unofficial refugee crossings into Canada, such as the one at Roxham Road, New York, are closed. Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) continue to be stationed at Roxham Road. People caught attempting to cross into Canada at unofficial crossings such as Roxham Road will be directed back to the US, where they may be detained.

Under the Safe Third Country Agreement, many people are not permitted to apply for refugee status in Canada at official ports of entry. Despite the Federal Court of Canada ruling on July 22, 2020, that the Safe Third Country Agreement is unconstitutional, the Agreement remains in effect. There are some specific exceptions to the Safe Third Country Agreement. Certain people can claim refugee status at an official Port of Entry at the Canadian border. These exceptions include:

  • People who have specific types of family members in Canada, 
  • Unaccompanied children under the age of 18 who do not have a parent or guardian in Canada or the US. 
  • Refugee claimants who are U.S. citizens or Stateless Persons habitually living in the U.S.
  • People who have visas or travel documents allowing travel to Canada, or people from countries that do not require a visa for Canada, but do require a visa for the U.S. (e.g. Mexico, Hong Kong SAR) 

Anyone who wants to make a refugee claim in Canada should talk to someone with expertise in Canadian immigration and refugee law before traveling to the US-Canada border. Non-profit organizations who work with refugees may be able to refer you to a lawyer who is qualified to practice immigration and refugee law in Canada. A qualified lawyer can provide advice about who is permitted to apply for refugee status in Canada under the Safe Third Country Agreement and COVID-19 border closures.


Bridge Not Borders – Créons des ponts, Quebec, Canada


Alec Vernon – Detroit Mercy School of Law – Detroit, USA

Phone: 313-444-9222


For more information on the COVID border closures: (information in English, French and Spanish)

For more information on recent court ruling:

For more information on the Safe Third Country Agreement:


Bridges Not Borders – Créons des ponts is a bilingual grassroots group near Roxham Road supporting and advocating for asylum seekers. (

Alex Vernon, Director, Immigration Law Clinic, University of Detroit Mercy School of Law

The Saratoga Immigration Coalition is a network of civic groups, faith communities and concerned individuals that seeks to foster, through support, education and advocacy, a community that is welcoming to all immigrants without regard to legal status. (

The Canadian Sanctuary Network advocates for the fair treatment for refugees and seeks remedies for refugees who face removal to a country where they are at risk. (

Beyond Tweets

7:00pm at Church of the Holy Trinity, Trinity Square, Toronto.

  • Deborah Anker Director, Harvard University Immigrant and Refugee Clinic 
  • Janet Dench Director, Canadian Council for Refugees 
  • Mary Jo Leddy Canadian Sanctuary Network
  • John Fife Co-founder of the Sanctuary movement in the USA
  • Amy Casipullai [moderator] Policy Director, Ontario Coalition of Agencies Serving Immigrants

Report on the German sanctuary movement

A Most Remarkable Outreach to Refugees: a report from the churches in Germany,  June 9, 2015, 7pm, Church of the Holy Trinity, Toronto.

The unprecedented Sanctuary movement in Germany today—with over 80,000 Syrian refugees accepted into the country, over 220 churches have offered Sanctuary and support to people fleeing war and devastation. Hanns Thomae, former director of the Refugee Outreach in Berlin and Brandenburg and member of the the ecumenical network, and Rita Kantemir-Thomae, Green Party MP and activist for migrant and refugee rights, will speak at this event.

video of the meeting is embedded below (or link here).

Sanctuary: Myths, Movement, Momentum

Sanctuary: Myths, Movement, Momentum” conference in Vancouver

Where: First Lutheran Church, 5745 Wales St, Vancouver, BC V5R 3N3

When: 7:00-9:00 pm, Friday, 28 November 2014.

Speakers include:

  • Irina Ceric, lawyer and scholar
  • Rev. Laurel Dykstra, Anglican theologian
  • Rev. Susan Johnson, ELCIC National Bishop
  • Ministers from three Lower Mainland congregations supporting persons in sanctuary
  • Three asylum seekers currently in sanctuary
  • Don Davies MP

Sanctuary Network joins May Day march

On May 1, 2013, the Sanctuary Network joined the May Day march in solidarity with refugees, together with Christian Peacemaker Teams, and Student Christian Movement.

We march for all the refugees living in sanctuary– in churches and in faith-based communities everywhere. We march for the right of refugees to stay, to live, to work, to build, to create and imagine and for their freedom of movement. We march in support of all the churches and faith-based communities who have opened their doors in solidarity with refugees. We march against Bill C-31 and the draconian refugee system which makes it increasingly difficult for refugees to get a fair hearing, and we march for all those who have been denied status, those who have been deported, and those who have died.

We march for radical faith in action to support the most vulnerable among us.

Open the Door: Refugees, Faith and the Sanctuary

7:30pm at St Paul’s Anglican Church, 45 Russell Street West, Lindsay ON.

The changes to Canada’s refugee law which came into effect on December 15 are already having a devastating impact on people seeking safety from violence and persecution. The speakers will discuss some of the effects of the new law, and why some faith communities feel that offering sanctuary is an obligation of conscience.

Moderator: Sylvia Keesmaat, Biblical Scholar, Cameron

Speakers: J. Santiago Rodriguez, SJ, Romero House, Toronto
Tamara Hoogerdyk, New Canadians Centre, Peterborough
Michael VanDerHerberg, New Canadians Centre, Peterborough

Download poster (pdf)

Sponsored by the Canadian Sanctuary Network, the New Canadians Centre, St Paul’s Anglican Church, and St James Anglican Church, Fenelon Falls.

Open the Door: Faith and Sanctuary

7:00 pm, Church of the Redeemer, 162 Bloor W  Toronto, ON M5S 1M4.

The changes to Canada’s refugee law which came into effect on December 15 are already having a devastating effect on people seeking safety from violence and persecution. The changes will have particularly damaging effects on those such as ethnic minority groups from so-called “safe countries”, women escaping from domestic and gender-based violence, and LGBTQ asylum-seekers.

In response, faith communities are coming together to advocate for more just and balanced laws, and to support those asking for refugee status in Canada. Some, in addition, have felt called to offer sanctuary to refugee claimants at risk of deportation, violence and possible death. This panel will discuss some of the effects of the new law, and reasons why some faith communities may feel that offering sanctuary can be an obligation of conscience.

Speakers will include writer and activist Mary Jo Leddy, and Tamar Witelson, legal director of METRAC, who will speak about the specific impact of the changes on women. A statement from the Pusuma family, who are currently living in sanctuary, will be presented, and additional speakers may be announced. Brian Walsh (Urban Remixed) will moderate.

Sponsored by the University of Toronto Campus Chaplains’ Association, Trinity College Chaplaincy, the Canadian Sanctuary Network, Church of the Redeemer, and Urban Remixed.

Panel on opposing Bill C-31


7:30 pm, November 29th, Church of the Holy Trinity, 10 Trinity Sq, Toronto, ON (video available)

  • Peter Showler Director of the Refugee Forum, University of Ottawa, former Chair of the Immigration Refugee Board
  • Mary Jo Leddy Regis College, Founder of Romero House
  • Meb Rashid Medical Director of Crossroads Clinic, Women’s College Hospital
  • Loly Rico Co-director of the FCJ Refugee Centre and Interim President of the Canadian Council for Refugees

Presented by The Canadian Council for Refugees, the Southern Ontario Sanctuary Coalition, Amnesty International, and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers