Il­le­gal cross­ings on the rise

RCMP stopped 887 peo­ple try­ing to il­le­gally en­ter Canada last month

The Intelligencer (Belleville) - - NATIONAL NEWS - STEPHANIE LE­VITZ

OT­TAWA — The num­ber of peo­ple stopped by the RCMP af­ter il­le­gally en­ter­ing Canada rose in March.

New fig­ures re­leased Wed­nes­day by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment show the RCMP in­ter­cepted 887 peo­ple cross­ing be­tween of­fi­cial border points, up from 658 in Fe­bru­ary and 315 in Jan­uary.

Of those stopped in March, 644 were picked up in Que­bec, 170 in Man­i­toba and 71 in B.C., with lone crossers nabbed in Al­berta and New Brunswick.

While none were picked up in Saskatchewan in the first three months of the year, on Wed­nes­day the RCMP said they charged a woman with hu­man smug­gling af­ter in­ter­cept­ing nine refugee claimants cross­ing the border into that prov­ince from the United States last Fri­day.

Some of those com­ing to Canada in spots like Emer­son, Man., have told au­thor­i­ties they were mo­ti­vated to leave the U.S. be­cause of the new ad­min­is­tra­tion, fear­ful their asy­lum claims won’t be treated fairly or that gen­eral an­ti­im­mi­grant sen­ti­ment was ris­ing.

Oth­ers have been found to have had Canada in their sights all along as their fi­nal des­ti­na­tion, ob­tain­ing U.S. visas solely for the pur­pose of com­ing here.

All of this is un­der re­view, said a spokesman for Pub­lic Safety Min­is­ter Ralph Goodale.

“In co-op­er­a­tion with our part­ners, the gov­ern­ment of Canada is con­stantly an­a­lyz­ing these trends and plan­ning for pos­si­ble de­vel­op­ments,” said Scott Bard­s­ley in an e-mail. “Cana­dian au­thor­i­ties are man­ag­ing the in­crease in asy­lum seek­ers in a sound and mea­sured way, ap­ply­ing our laws and pro­ce­dures to keep Cana­di­ans safe, while fully re­spect­ing all of this coun­try’s in­ter­na­tional obli­ga­tions.”

It will be months be­fore it’s known whether those who’ve en­tered Canada be­tween border points in re­cent months are in fact granted asy­lum. If their claims are founded, they won’t face charges for il­le­gally en­ter­ing the coun­try.

The fig­ures also show a gen­eral over­all in­crease in asy­lum claims in Canada, with 3,440 pro­cessed in March com­pared with 2,885 in Fe­bru­ary.

NDP Im­mi­gra­tion critic Jenny Kwan said the gov­ern­ment needs to find a way to ad­dress what’s clearly a grow­ing prob­lem by both help­ing the Im­mi­gra­tion and Refugee Board deal with the in­creased case load and rethinking the Safe Third Coun­try agree­ment with the U.S. that’s push­ing folks to cross be­tween reg­u­lar border en­try points.

The deal states that peo­ple can’t make refugee claims at the Canada-U.S. land border cross­ing points be­cause they should have been able to lodge one in the coun­try they’re com­ing from. But dozens of aca­demics, lawyers and refugee rights ad­vo­cates have called for Canada to sus­pend the deal given the cur­rent un­cer­tainty in the U.S. im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem.

“Our gov­ern­ment sit­ting on their hands and not deal­ing with the is­sue is only go­ing to make the sit­u­a­tion worse,” Kwan said.

She is hop­ing the House of Com­mons im­mi­gra­tion com­mit­tee will agree to a study of the is­sue when Par­lia­ment re­turns from break in May.

THE CANA­DIAN PRESS FILES

An asy­lum claimant claim­ing to be from the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo is ar­rested by an RCMP of­fi­cer af­ter cross­ing the border into Canada from the United States on March 28 near Hem­ming­ford, Que.

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