MONTREAL -- Many Canadians have lost faith in America’s ability to fairly process refugee claims, according to a new survey, and the COVID-19 pandemic may have played a role. 

An agreement between Canada and the U.S. – called the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) – means that if a person applies for refugee status in one country and is denied, they are denied by default in the other due to common guidelines. Part of this agreement means refugees must make their claims in the first “safe” country they arrive to.

But on July 22, Federal Court Justice Ann Marie McDonald said in a long-awaited ruling that elements of the law underpinning the STCA violate the constitutional guarantee of life, liberty and security. In her decision, McDonald said the STCA results in ineligible claimants being imprisoned by U.S. authorities when they’re turned away from Canadian borders.

McDonald has given the federal government six months to respond to the decision.

A new survey by the Association for Canadian Studies (ACS) suggests that 60 per cent of Canadians no longer trust the U.S. to assess refugee claims, and two thirds think the Government of Canada should take responsibility for assessing claims from asylum seekers who come to Canada from the U.S.

According to ACS president Jack Jedwab, these feelings could potentially be linked to how the U.S. administration is handling the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Since COVID, the extent to which we trust Donald Trump – as we’ve demonstrated in previous surveys – and the United States is at an all-time low,” he told CTV News on Friday. “Coming into COVID, the trust for Donald Trump wasn’t particularly high amongst Canadians, but there was a big gap between the trust for Donald Trump and the extent to which Canadians trusted Americans and trusted the United States.”

Jedwab says that gap has now narrowed.

“I think with COVID there’s a perception amongst Canadians that the United States and its administration have not managed the COVID crisis with the same seriousness we have,” he said.

Common ground on what constitutes human rights violations that allow people to claim asylum in Canada and the U.S. is imperative, Jedwab said. 

"For us to have a different approach when we share a land border that is so long isn't a good thing," he continued. "I don't think we want to find ourselves in a situation where we are saying our U.S. neighbours are not to be trusted." 

The web survey was conducted from July 31 to Aug. 2 among 1,531 Canadians aged 18 and up. 

With files from The Canadian Press.