On Friday, April 3, 2020, Rebeka Lauks participated in the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers ("CARL") "Contact your MP" initiative. Set in advance of Refugee Rights Day in Canada on Saturday April 4, 2020, CARL called on refugee advocates to contact their Members of Parliament and Ministers and express their serious concerns regarding the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on refugee rights and immigration/refugee systems. In particular, the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers advocated that the current blanket closure of the US-Canada border to refugee claimants is unnecessary and harmful to both public health efforts and to refugees themselves.
Although the measures are intended to be temporary, refugee advocates have been troubled by recent media reports suggesting that, despite assurances from the United States that returnees would not be detained or deported, and could initiate refugee claims later, these assurances are not being respected by US enforcement officials. Members of Parliament and Ministers were asked not to extend the blanket border closure and to instead return to health checks and quarantining new refugee claimants from the US-Canada border for 14 days. Such a measure strikes the correct balance between enabling the Government to manage the arrival of refugee claimants in a safe manner in light of the challenges posed by COVID-19, while also respecting the international legal principle that we do not send individuals back to risk of torture, death, and cruel and unusual punishment / treatment.