For decades, Canada has, justifiably, earned a reputation for being a welcoming country — a destination for those fleeing war and persecution, or those looking to build a better life for themselves.
For the most part, that’s just as the vast majority of Canadians would have it. Global events, however, have a tendency to challenge best intentions and ideals. Right now, Canada’s refugee system is under strain due to an unusually high number of foreign migrants leaving the United States and illegally crossing the border into Canada. Most of these migrants are originally from Haiti, and are making their way north to avoid deportation from the U.S. back to Haiti; the U.S. is contemplating revoking a permit to allow displaced Haitians to stay in the U.S. following the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010. Further, most of those migrants are crossing, on foot, from New York State into Quebec (though some are also arriving in Cornwall, Ont.)
The federal government is taking some rather unusual steps in an attempt to curb the amount of crossings, including sending a Haitian-born Liberal MP, Emmanuel Dubourg, to Florida to appeal to the Haitian community there, advising them to think twice about making the trip north to Canada. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has made a similar trip to the Quebec/New York border.
The normally-immigration-friendly Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also issued a warning to would-be refugees that they wouldn’t enjoy any advantage by arriving illegally in Canada, and that refugee claims would be thoroughly processed; that process can take years. As Robyn Urback pointed out in her cbc.ca column yesterday, “Crossing into Canada does not mean a brand new life: it means possible detention, living in a tent, waiting months for a hearing and, more likely than not, a rejected asylum claim.”
Of course, when families are in desperate straits, they’ll be willing to take risks like these in order to find peace and prosperity.
Current regulations and international treaties prevent Canada from simply shutting the door to these migrants, or sending them back to the U.S or Haiti or wherever they’re from without a hearing. Indeed, the government has a limited amount of measures at its disposal to stem the flow.
Nevertheless, it remains a problem that must be addressed. The phrase ‘thinking outside the box’ is one that’s overused, but this is a dilemma which obviously requires exactly that; otherwise, we’re left to cross our fingers and hope that those global events outside of Canada’s spin our way again. We’re not sure that’s a very safe bet.