As much as there has been considerable attention on how the new American administration may impact Canada from an economic perspective, overlooked thus far has been the impact to Canada on illegal refugee entry. As you may be aware in parts of Manitoba and Quebec there has been a significant increase of refugees illegally crossing into Canada creating considerable concern on the overall integrity of Canada’s immigration and refugee system. The concern is that if refugees can enter Canada illegally in an effort to obtain status it may encourage others to follow a similar course of illegal action as opposed to making a legal application through the existing process.
To be fair to the refugees, there are concerns they may be deported from the Unites States as a result of a crackdown on illegal immigration by the new administration. At the same time, Prime Minister Trudeau has stated that Canadians will welcome those who are turned away or refused entry in the USA. Although I do not believe the Prime Minister intended to encourage illegal entry into Canada his comments have certainly encouraged some to do precisely that.
To further complicate this situation Canada and the Unites States in 2002 signed the “Safe Third Country Agreement”. This agreement essentially means that any person seeking refugee status must make a claim in the first country they arrive in, either Canada or the United States. Meaning that the recent refugees crossing the border illegally from the United States into Canada cannot, in effect, apply for refugee status here in Canada. As a result some, including the NDP, have called on the Liberal Government to suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement. An action that to date the Liberals have stated they will not consider.
This is a difficult situation as many of those illegally entering Canada, if they are deported back to the United States, may well again be deported back to their home countries where very real threats and dangers may exist. At the same time if Canada does allow the “Safe Third Party” agreement to be suspended it will set a precedent that could result in potentially significant amounts of refugees illegally entering Canada and at the same time undermining the integrity of our refugee and immigration system. For that reason I believe the Liberals will need to proceed cautiously in how this situation is resolved.
Currently there is no legislative measures being contemplated in the House of Commons with respect to this matter. On the same theme I would be interested in hearing your views on the subject of refugees illegally entering Canada from the United States. Do you support the Safe Third Country agreement being lifted or should our current laws remain in effect and be enforced? I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free at 1-800-665-8711.
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament elect for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.