Cabinet ministers warn migrants at border

Lynette Rowe
August 25, 2017

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canadians can continue to have confidence in the country's immigration system, and defended his government's response to the surge of asylum seekers who have avoided regular border crossings to enter Canada from the United States this summer.

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel said the Twitter message gave "false hope to people crossing the border" and has created a massive backlog in processing asylum claims.

Opposition politicians in Quebec have criticized the federal government's handling of the border crossers, some calling for Trudeau to suspend worldwide agreements forcing Canada to accept people entering through illegal border points.

More than 10,000 asylum seekers have walked across the USA border into Canada to file refugee claims so far this year, including 3,800 into Quebec in the first two weeks of August alone, authorities have said.

"We're not that far off from frost", she said.

After meeting with Quebec officials, Trudeau also announced the creation of a task force to deal with the irregular migration through backwoods and farmers' fields.

But immigration lawyer Alastair Clarke says asylum seekers must meet criteria set out by the United Nations' 1951Geneva Refugee Convention or Canadian law on protected persons. She said the only exception is for people with serious criminal records.

Many of those crossing the border are Haitians who fear that the Trump administration in the United States would remove their temporary protected status, brought in following the 2010 natural disaster, from deportation. The Immigration and Refugee Board has also devoted 20 of its members exclusively to hearing the asylum claims.

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Leger Marketing pollster Christian Bourque said there were no immediate signs that support in Quebec for Trudeau was weakening.

The number of migrants coming in to Canada at the Quebec border has increased dramatically over the last two months and now has abated to about 140 a day.

Critics accuse Trudeau of encouraging would-be refugees to come to Canada without thinking through the consequences.

"It contradicts the reality of the anti-immigration policies put in place by the Trump administration as well as the lived experience of many in the immigrant community living in the US", NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan wrote in a letter to Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen.

Dubourg, who has extensive connections in the Haitian diaspora and speaks fluently in Creole, is trying to get the message out that illegal crossing will not mean they will gain asylum.

The federal Conservatives are calling on Ottawa to allow border guards to send asylum-seekers back to the United States as hundreds cross on foot into Manitoba.

The NDP is asking Trudeau to issue a three-month halt to the 2004 agreement, and study pulling out entirely.

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