June 8, 2018 – The image of a Syrian child lying lifeless on a Mediterranean beach helped Justin Trudeau’s governing liberals win Canada’s 2015 federal election. News that young Alan Kurdi’s family had been denied passage to Canada as refugees by the previous Conservative government swept across the country. Weeks later, Stephen Harper’s reign as prime minister was over. The Trudeau Liberals won a landslide victory to power along with a since fulfilled promise to welcome 25,000 Syrian refugees.
Trudeau’s message at the time was that a compassionate, welcoming nature was part of Canada’s national identity. The voting public agreed, giving him a mandate to enact a pro- immigration agenda, eventually seeing more than 40,000 Syrian refugees enter Canada by 2017.
Fast-forward two-and-a-half years and that compassionate welcoming nature is being put to the test. Evidence suggests the federal government does not yet have control of the Canada-U.S. border, as asylum seekers stream across in the thousands looking to escape Donald Trump’s American immigration crackdown. As the numbers grow in 2018, with April seeing more than 2,500 interceptions of irregular border crossers, so does support for the populist agenda. In Alberta, Ontario and Quebec, where provincial elections are scheduled for this year, populist politicians are near the top in voter intention polls.
RCMP Interceptions Between Recognized Border Points
Source: Government of Canada
When Trump took office and imposed restrictive immigration policies starting with a ban on Muslim immigration to the USA, Trudeau’s now infamous January 2017 tweet told immigrants “Canadian will welcome you, regardless of your faith”. Refugees in the USA awaiting the outcome of their pending claims, began heading north.
After Trudeau’s initial tweet, 2017 saw 20,000 asylum seekers cross into Canada from the U.S. As winter arrived, the numbers dwindled. But the latest surge bringing the total to more than 8,000 interceptions in 2018, means the situation is again creating difficult headlines for the Liberals.
Quebec and Federal Officials Reach Agr eement Over Rising Asylum Seeker Numbers
Canada 2017 Asylum Claim Numbers Break Two-Decade Record
Significant Increase In Illegal Canada-U.S. Border Crossers Worries Authorities
More trouble looms as 350,000 aliens in the USA are expected to lose their TPS in the coming months. A further Trump crackdown will see Nicaraguans, Haitians and El Salvadorians face deportation in 2019 if they cannot secure permanent status in the USA.
Among all refugee claimants to Canada last year, the largest group were Haitians. Many came after President Trump withdrew their “temporary protected status” they received after a devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010. This year, Nigerians entering the USA on valid visitor visas, top the ranking. Most then make their way north along Interstate 87 where the largest number enter Quebec through Roxham Road, in Hemmingford, the most popular “unofficial” border crossing in Canada. Aspiring refugee claimants succeed in gaining a foothold in Canada by entering at points of entry not covered by the bilateral Safe Third Country agreement, between Canada and the USA.
The End of Temporary Protected Status
|Country||People affected||TPS end date|
|Nicaragua||5,300||January 5, 2019|
|Haiti||59,000||July 22, 2019|
|El Salvador||200,000||September 9, 2019|
|Honduras||86,000||Decision July 2018|
There have been several calls for Canada to suspend the 2004 agreement, which requires an asylum seeker to make their claim in the first safe country in which they arrive. But thousands of border-crossers are taking advantage of a legal loophole: the agreement only applies to those who come by air, or cross over one of the 119 official ports of entry. If they present themselves at non-official points and claim asylum, Canada under international law, must allow them in, while it processes their claims.
Asserting control starts with tough talk. Avoiding border posts “is no free ticket to Canada”, asfederal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale recently stated. Asylum-seekers will be arrested before officials consider their claims, he warned. Rhetoric however is not enough.
The message for Trudeau’s governing Liberals is clear: Take control of our porous borders, or just like refugee policy which helped them get elected, it could also get them booted out by an angry electorate in 2019. The marked change in tone from the Liberals of late, is evidence they understand this dilemma.
The surest way to solve the problem would be to close this loophole. Canada could create new“pop-up” official temporary border crossings and deny protection to claimants entering our country. Officials have floated other options to the United States which require their support. But Trump is unlikely to endorse any plan that will keep refugee claimants in the US. Trudeau may soon wish he too could build a wall.
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