The Trudeau government already has the tools needed to stop the surge in illegal immigration. It must declare these crossings as Irregular Arrivals under the Immigration and Refugee Act so officials can hold individual migrants until their identification and admissibility can be verified. It must, at the same time, provide the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) with more resources in order to send front-line officers to border hot spots to meet asylum seekers entering Canada. We must set up impromptu border stations in response to the impromptu crossings. If the Trudeau government were to take these two steps, illegal immigration would fall drastically and our security and immigration officials could better deal with the task of screening, vetting and admitting asylum seekers.
Part 1: The Problem
Illegal Immigration Along the 49th Parallel
Canada is a generous and welcoming country with a proud history of accepting and resettling some of the world’s most vulnerable and persecuted people. There are refugee success stories all around us, and we should always have space in our country to protect those fleeing violence and oppression.
We should have no patience, however, for those who take advantage of our generosity by purposely thwarting our border security and immigration laws. Increasingly, the recent surge in illegal immigration crossings along our southern border appears to be one such example – a coordinated effort to bypass Canada’s rules and jump to the front of the immigration queue.
In January and February of 2017 – the coldest and historically the lowest months of the year for cross-border hoping – there were 2,464 illegal entries along our border, compared to 1,134 in all of 2016. As the weather improves, the problem will only get worse. The Trudeau government needs tough and comprehensive measures to stop these illegal crossings – dangerous for both the migrants trekking through wooded forests and rural fields, as well as Canadians, 93% of which say they are worried about dangerous criminal crossing into Canada.
Circumventing the Safe Third Country Agreement
A CBC report on these illegal crossings refers to a “network of drivers” in the U.S. who transport migrants to the border. The migrants then cross into Canada illegally and claim to be refugees.
There’s a more accurate way of describing this illegal “network.” It’s called a human smuggling ring. And these human smugglers know exactly how to get around existing laws and bilateral agreements.
Canada and the United States have a treaty, the Safe Third Country Agreement, which requires individuals seeking asylum to file their claim in whichever country they arrive in first.
Canada, therefore, does not accept refugees coming through the United States, and vice versa.
The human smugglers know full well that this agreement prevents them from bringing wannabe refugees into Canada – a preferred destination, given Canada’s lenient immigration laws and generous welfare benefits.
But the human smugglers also know that the Safe Third Country Agreement is only enforced at International airports and major land border crossings in Canada. They know that if a client is dropped off at the border in Buffalo, NY or Blaine, WA, the asylum seekers would immediately be turned away. That is why hundreds of refugees are showing up at border fields in Manitoba and wooded ditches in Quebec. They are purposely and deliberately circumventing our immigration laws.
To be considered a refugee, as per international law, a person must have a well-founded fear of persecution in their country of origin. They cannot simply be fleeing discomfort or a lousy job market. They must be fleeing death, torture or imprisonment because of who they are or what they believe. Words have meaning, and a refugee is not anyone who shows up in Canada asking for our asylum. Many of those showing up in Manitoba and making asylum claims are economic migrants, not refugees. And economic migrants should not be able to jump the queue and cut in front of bona-fide refugees waiting overseas.
Our refugee program should be reserved for actual refugees, not opportunistic migrants using human smugglers to bypass our rules. Canada should enforce its immigration laws as they stand, and send those entering illegally from the United States packing.
The need for action
Instead, unfortunately, the attitude of some Canadian officials has been to ignore the problem and pretend it doesn’t exists. Most recently, the RCMP now says it refuses to provide the media with updated numbers on asylum seekers who have crossed into Manitoba. "The RCMP will no longer be releasing weekly numbers regarding people illegally crossing the border from the United States into Manitoba as we are looking at providing a more consolidated approach," an RCMP spokesman told the CBC. This is not the right approach, as Canadians deserve transparency about the situation unfolding in our communities.
We can no longer ignore this problem, and this True North Initiative Policy Report seeks to provide a roadmap for officials to deal with what CBSA union President Jean-Pierre Fortin has called “a crisis.” This paper will provide two major policy recommendations: 1) to declare this a situation of Irregular Arrivals under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act; and 2) to give the CBSA the resources it needs to place front-line officers at border hot spots to screen, vet and process asylum claims.
An investigative video report from the Rebel Media has made it clear, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that there is a coordinated effort to thwart our border security and our immigration rules to facilitated large-scale illegal immigration into Canada.
Part 2: The Solution
Something must be done to stop these criminal networks. Fortunately, Canada already has the legal tools to deal with this problem – and it’s time we started using them. The Trudeau government – specifically Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale – must declare these border-hopping migrants as Irregular Arrivals under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Under the Act, the Minister can designate any arrival into Canada as an ‘irregular arrival’ for either of the following reasons:
- If Canada’s officials are not able to interview migrants to verify identification and admissibility to Canada in a timely and thorough manner.
- The Minister has reasonable grounds to suspect there is human smuggling or trafficking taking place involving a criminal organization or terrorist group.
If Minister Goodale were to designate this coordinated surge as an Irregular Arrival, all those entering at set spots would become what the government calls a Designated Foreign National. All Designated Foreign Nationals aged 16 years and older would automatically be held until our officials could determine the person’s admissibility to Canada and rule on whether or not he or she is a bona fide refugee.
Currently, asylum seekers who cross into Canada to bypass the Safe Third Country Agreement are arrested until they can have their paperwork checked by a CBSA official. Many are then released, and many will never be seen or heard from again. Once in Canada, many of these migrants will simply go underground; they won’t show up to their immigration hearing and will live amongst us without having been properly vetted or accepted as a refugee.
Not only would the Irregular Arrivals designation help ensure that asylum seekers don’t disappear and go on the lam in Canada, it would also act as a deterrent, and stop criminal networks from growing their operations. Word would spread that Canada is cracking down on illegal immigration along our southern border, and the number of illegal crossings would slow down to a halt.
Evidence of Irregular Arrivals
A recent investigative video report from the Rebel Media shows that both of these issues are at play and relevant to this situation. The Rebel Media has made clear, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that there is a coordinated effort by human smugglers to thwart our immigration rules and facilitate large-scale illegal migration into Canada.
Reporting from upstate New York, Rebel journalist Faith Goldy spoke to an employee at a taxi company who described the “special services” they provide to wannabe refugees. “Let’s just say we ensure that the people make it across the border safely,” he tells her, describing how he contacts the RCMP when a migrant is dropped off at an unpatrolled spot along the Canada-U.S. border. As Goldy reports, these taxi companies are part of a cross-country network of “brokers and runners” who work to bring migrants from all over the U.S. to cross into Canada at this location. Many of these migrants, we’re told, are not in the United States legally.
And, as Goldy learns through interviews with various drivers, many of them are charging quite the premium: up to $800 for one short leg of the trip. The brokers who coordinate these journeys surely charge much more.
The investigative report shows that these illegal crossings are coordinated and meet the Government of Canada’s standards of an Irregular Arrival under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
As part of the same investigative video series, Rebel journalist Faith Goldy also encountered a man claiming to be a Syrian refugee as he illegally crossed into Canada. As the migrant enters Canada, he is met by two RCMP officers trying to deter him from entering. They tell the migrant that he must go to an official crossing and that he’ll be arrested if he proceeds. The man proceeds anyway, demanding to be arrested – as is eventually the case. These officers were not trained to deal this situation; a CBSA official should have been there to assist in this situation.
These RCMP officers have obviously been sent to this specific location to deal with these illegal crossings. If the Canadian government can send police to this location, they should also send a CBSA official. That way, they can actually do the screening and vetting that Canadians demand. The Canadian government must set up impromptu borders stations to address impromptu crossings. CBSA union President Jean-Pierre Fortin has repeatedly called on the Trudeau to increase resources to fund more front-line officers. This is clearly needed.
Sending more CBSA agents to the front line will help deal with the chaos of screening and verifying admissibility of asylum claims, and will help ensure that no individual slips through the cracks. If the Trudeau government declares this a situation of Irregular Arrivals, additional CBSA officers will be needed to escort migrants to holding areas where they will be held until their identities are verified and their cases are reviewed.
Immigration Security Leadership
Canada was once a world leader in immigration security. In 2010, a ship carrying nearly 500 migrants arrived off the coast of Vancouver Island. Many of those onboard the MV Sun Sea were not carrying any identification paperwork or documents, and Canadian officials had a difficult time confirming basic admissibility details. To make matters worse, the Sri Lankan government stated the ship was carrying terrorists and war criminals.
The Harper government ordered a navy ship to escort the MV Sun Sea to a nearby base, where the migrants were held while immigration and screening checks took place. Canadian officials took their time, and eventually found that 11 of the self-proclaimed refugees were members of a terrorist organization and two were wanted for war crimes. Many of remaining migrants were accepted as bona fide refugees and permitted to stay in Canada.
Following this extraordinary event, the Harper government introduced a bill to give officials the tools to better handle these situations. The Irregular Arrival designation is one such tool.
It’s time for the Trudeau government to take action. Canadians are willing to accept large scale immigration and a generous refugee resettlement program so long as they trust the integrity of the immigration system. The ongoing surge in illegal immigration – and the appearance that the Trudeau government is ignoring the problem, or even worse, celebrating these illegal crossings – will only undermine Canada’s historically successful immigration and integration program.