Conservative MP wants feds to close loophole for illegal border crossers

Immigration advocates call on government to suspend Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement

An RCMP officer stands guard at the border leading into Canada from the United States on Wednesday, April 18, 2018 near Champlain, NY. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

The entire Canada-U.S. border should be designated as an official port of entry to help stop the flow of illegal migrants into Canada, says Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel.

Making such a change would give the RCMP and Canada Border Services Agency more tools to deal with an ongoing influx of asylum seekers crossing the border at unofficial entry points in Quebec and Ontario, Rempel said in an interview Thursday.

“I just really feel that unless we address this issue this is going to be unending and it’s unsustainable,” she said.

Immigration advocates have been calling on the government to suspend the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement, which has been cited as a major factor in the spike of irregular border crossings.

The agreement prevents asylum seekers from asking for refugee protection when they present themselves at an official port of entry. They can only claim refugee status from inside Canada, which is why thousands have been crossing through unofficial entry points on foot.

If Ottawa doesn’t close that loophole, turning the entire border an official port of entry could offer an alternative solution, Rempel said.

READ MORE: Cabinet set to map out scenarios for dealing with illegal border-crossers

READ MORE: Advocates concerned about unaccompanied minors seeking asylum in Canada

But Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale’s office was quick to shut down the idea, saying it would create even greater problems and dangers along the 9,000-kilometre border.

“It would incentivize people to cross at more remote locations and to evade detection by Canadian law enforcement so they can get to an inland immigration office and make a claim there,” said Goodale’s press secretary, Scott Bardsley.

“That would increase the risk to Canadians and asylum seekers alike.”

Concerns boiled over in Quebec this week over the mounting pressures caused by the tens of thousands of asylum seekers that have been pouring into that province over the last year.

Some officials are projecting a further 400 people a day could cross the border into Quebec through forest paths this summer to claim asylum in Canada — a situation Rempel warned will only exacerbate ongoing backlogs in the processing of refugee claims.

The Liberal government has said it is working to ease pressures caused by the surge in asylum claims, including dedicating $74 million this year to help reduce the processing backlogs at the Immigration and Refugee Board.

But the IRB is warning concentrated surges in refugee claims and appeals could negate any gains it makes in reducing backlogs. Last year, a 20 per cent improvement in processing was swallowed by a 40 per cent increase in cases.

“With wait times in excess of 12 months at all three divisions (of the IRB), the focus of the board over the next three years is to reduce those backlogs where resource levels permit or else to limit their growth,” says the board’s recently tabled department plan.

Changes have been made to streamline claims processing, including finalizing claims in the order in which they are received. But the board notes it can only improve the time it takes to adjudicate claims if it finalizes more cases than it receives, a factor that’s beyond its control.

In 2017-18, the board finalized 49,000 cases, up from 40,500 the previous year, but intake over the same period increased by twice that amount, from 50,700 in 2016-17 to 70,000 cases across all divisions, including refugee protection claims, appeals, detention reviews, inadmissibility hearings and immigration appeals.

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Surrey’s Amazing Tutors donates hundreds of ‘Sunshine Food Bags’ to those less fortunate

For three years, volunteers and students have been putting together donation packages

Surrey’s Khalsa Lions take in bronze in Fraser Valleys

The senior girls team will be heading to the provincials for the first time in the school’s history

Delta supports proposed Health Canada regulations for cannabis edibles

Regulations focus on standardizing THC content, making sure edibles aren’t appealing to youth

Junior Team Canada brings home gold to the Lower Mainland, again

In a 9-4 victory over Switzerland, a Langley-based curling team earned its 2nd straight world title

VIDEO: Iconic ‘snow cone’ takes shape at B.C. park near Clearwater

Snow cone forming at Wells Gray Provincial Park one that would make Disney’s Queen Elsa proud

A ‘warm embrace’ for grieving parents at funeral of seven young fire victims

Mourners offered love and support to Kawthar Barho, mother of seven children

Indigenous leaders, politicians say Trans Mountain report flawed

The National Energy Board has endorsed an expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline a second time

UPDATE: Reports of rashes prompt closure of all Harrison Hot Springs pools

Public pool available after Fraser Health shut down all five mineral pools until further notice

Legislation to protect B.C. farmland comes into effect

Regulations enhance food security, encourage long-term farming

Have you heard the legend of Shuswaggi, the Shuswap Lake monster?

Witness accounts as old as 1904, and as recent as 2018, place a creature in the lake’s depths

UPDATE: B.C. ticket holder winner of $25.9-million Lotto Max jackpot

Next draw set for Mar. 1 with an estimated jackpot of $10 million

B.C. weavers to help Alaska Native project honouring survivors of violence

Dozens of Chilkat and Ravenstail weavers from all over North America will be weaving 5-inch-by-5-inch squares

B.C. skip Sarah Wark and team eliminated at Scotties Tournament of Hearts

Nontheless pretty impressive stuff from the 24th-ranked team in the country

Most Read