Essays

How to End the Canadian Border Crisis

By not allowing anyone who illegally crosses the border from the United States to make an asylum claim, the number of illegal border crossings will drop significantly.

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From January 2017 to October 2018, 37,713 asylum seekers illegally crossed the U.S. border into Canada. Although these individuals have all broken the law, they will not be prosecuted.

The Government of Canada website states, “no enforcement actions are taken against people seeking asylum as per section 133 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.” In most cases, asylum seekers are permitted to stay in Canada until their claim is heard.

What’s more, they are eligible for many financial benefits including health care, social assistance, housing, and education for their children.

The message to refugees around the world is loud and clear: If you illegally cross the border into Canada, you won’t be charged with a crime, you won’t deported if you are eligible to make a refugee claim, and the government will take care of your financial needs. These government policies encourage people to illegally cross the border and request asylum.

In January 2017, Justin Trudeau encouraged refugees to come to Canada when he tweeted, “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you…” Trudeau’s tweet (which went viral) undoubtedly increased the number of illegal border crossings.

Most asylum seekers from the United States would be foolish to follow the legal process to make a refugee claim in Canada. Under the Safe Third Country Agreement, persons requesting asylum “must make a claim in the first country they arrive in… unless they qualify for an exception.” As CBC News has reported, “most people who make an asylum claim at the border are turned back to the United States.”

The Safe Third Country Agreement is only in effect in places where it is legal to enter Canada (i.e., ports of entry, and by train or at airports). Knowing this, asylum seekers make an illegal border crossing instead.

This giant loophole in the Safe Third Country Agreement is what has ultimately caused the Canadian border crisis. The loophole needs to be closed.

The Conservative Party has proposed that the entire Canada–U.S. border be designated as an official port of entry. If this change were made, then most asylum seekers from the United States would be sent back.

If the U.S. refuses to take them because their asylum claim was rejected, then they could be deported. When an asylum claim is rejected, it has been determined that it is safe for the individual to return to their home country. They can also be deported if they are considered a security threat.

Another solution is to renegotiate the Safe Third Country Agreement and make illegal border crossers ineligible to apply for asylum in both countries.

The easiest solution would be for Parliament to simply pass legislation to close the loophole.

Canada does have a legal obligation to protect refugees. According to Article 33 of the 1951 Convention, “a refugee should not be returned to a country where he or she faces serious threats to his or her life or freedom.”

However, the Convention does not apply to asylum seekers who arrive from the United States because the Government of Canada has declared the U.S. “a safe third country.” Sending an illegal border crosser back to the United States does not put their life in any danger.

The Trudeau government can end the Canadian border crisis. By not allowing anyone who illegally crosses the border from the United States to make an asylum claim, the number of illegal border crossings will drop significantly. It is simple and easy to fix. All it takes is the political will to do it.


This column was originally published in The Post Millennial.

8 comments

  1. There’s simply no way around the fact that the globe’s resources are unevenly balanced, so as long as humans subscribe to the abstract concept of national economics, wealth, borders and national morality, borders will be challenged, wars will be fought, and “illegal” immigration will happen.

    The concept of borders is purely anthropomorphic, guided entirely by political agendas, literally cementing into place, socio-economic inequalities. Therefore, I see it as incumbent upon all who segregate the planet’s resources to find a better alternative than simply creating additional anthropomorphic attributes (laws) protecting what we claim as “ours”. Otherwise, we devolve to nothing more than survival of the most fortunate.

    I certainly don’t have the answer, but perhaps we could start by leaving our hegemonic lenses on the desk to find the answer?

    Maybe, the question isn’t so much as “how do we protect our borders” as it is; “how do we equitably include those who are not as fortunate by birth?”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Bunty, This is a divisive topic, I know.

    If Canada withdraws from the Safe Third Country Agreement, then every single person who is denied asylum in the United States will be able to come to Canada and apply for refugee status.

    Like

  3. The alternative which you don’t mention, and which I would support, is to scrap the Safe Third Country Agreement. It may have made sense when the USA was a kinder, more tolerant society but things have changed.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for reading my article!

    Canada is much more likely to grant asylum to an illegal border crosser than in the United States:

    “Forty percent of such border crossers whose claims were finalized in the first three months of this year were granted refugee status, down from 53% for all of 2017.” https://www.reuters.com/article/us-canada-immigration-border/canada-granting-refugee-status-to-fewer-illegal-border-crossers-idUSKCN1IN1CO

    Liked by 1 person

  5. How coincidental that the same day that I post on the illegal immigration problem in the United States, you post about the illegal immigration problem in Canada! I know that much of the illegal immigration argument in America surrounds Mexican migrants; what about in Canada?

    Considering that an immigrant doesn’t have much of a justification for seeking asylum from the United States nowadays (is there any instance where one who crosses from the U.S. to Canada illegally does have legitimate asylum claims?), it makes sense that the entire Canadian-U.S. border be made an official point of entry, so that any illegal crossing is immediately penalized. Of course, this could take quite some time to establish, in which case just closing the loophole in the Safe Third Country Agreement, as you recommended, is probably most expedient.

    Thanks for sharing, Christopher. I hear so much about America’s political struggles and didn’t know until today that Canada suffered from similar ones.

    Liked by 1 person

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