According to Canadian news accounts, Justice Michael Phelan's ruling struck down an agreement that once barred thousands of refugees seeking asylum in Canada. The judge said the United States does not protect refugees fleeing political persecution and torture, which international conventions require.
Instead, it adheres to rigid policies which may result in mistreatment, including forcing victims of abuse to return to the countries in which they were mistreated, he said.
As a result, the United States can no longer be considered a safe place for refugees, Phelan ruled. His ruling nullifies an existing U.S.-Canada agreement saying that if a refugee is turned away from one country, he or she cannot seek refuge in the other. The agreement was intended to reduce so-called "asylum shopping," in which immigrants attempt to obtain refugee status from multiple countries.
In his ruling, Phelan pointed to U.S. government's policies on torture and interrogation, the expedited removal of immigrants, its detention practices and its rigid application of time limits for filing paperwork as well as anti-terrorism related provisions, the Canadian press reported.
Such policies are "extremely harsh and cast a wide net which will catch many who never posed a threat," Phelan wrote.
The judge cited the case of Maher Arar, a Syrian-Canadian who was detained by U.S. authorities on terrorism-related suspicions and "renditioned" to Syria, where he was tortured. Canada has said publicly that Arar had no terrorist ties, though to date the U.S. government has not done so.
The Canadian government is expected to appeal the ruling.