Clark: Let’s get politicians to tell us how they would close Roxham Road, not why, Yakabuski: Trudeau can no longer avoid tough choices on Roxham Road 

As always, the herd instinct at play in coverage of irregular arrivals and Roxham Road, given Premier Legault’s public pressure and Pierre Poilievre’s simplistic solution.

Two of the best are Clark, who calls for a needed but unlikely change, and Yakabuski who argues time for though choices:

Let’s hold all our politicians to one simple rule about Roxham Road: Don’t tell us what you want to do about it. Tell us how you would do it.

Quebec politicians have been calling for the unofficial crossing on the border between Quebec and New York state to be closed. And Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has called for the feds to do so within 30 days.

But as it turns out, there is no switch that opens and closes the border. So what is it they are actually proposing?

Mr. Poilievre said that all it takes is a simple decision, but he couldn’t say what the government should decide to do.

Of course, there are plenty of reasons why the government should do something. People want the border to be under control. They want migration to be safe and orderly.

And there is palpable frustration when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau essentially says he’s got nothing other than time to wait for U.S. President Joe Biden to solve the problem by changing a border agreement. And that’s essentially what Mr. Trudeau was saying Wednesday when he said that if Roxham Road was closed, asylum-seekers would just cross at other places. It’s probably true, but not a solution.

So how can it be done? Quebec Premier François Legault wants a deal with the U.S., too, but faster. Mr. Poilievre – and most politicians – don’t want to specify. Real proposals usally involve doing things the politicians don’t want to talk about. And many so far have been ineffective or ridiculous.

When People’s Party Leader Maxime Bernier was running for the leadership of the Conservative Party in 2017, he proposed sending the military. In 2018, two Conservative MPs proposed declaring the entire 8,891-kilometre border into an official border crossing, arguing that would trick the U.S. into taking back those who entered Canada at Roxham Road. That same year, then-Parti Québécois leader Jean-François Lisée briefly suggested a fence, or “a sign, a cedar grove, a police officer, whatever.”

Mr. Poilievre told reporters on Tuesday that it must be easy, because Mr. Trudeau shut down Roxham Road during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. But that didn’t happen with a snap of the fingers. When the two countries shut their borders, the U.S. agreed that Canada could direct border-crossers back. When the borders reopened, that arrangement ended. And here we are again.

That’s one thing to remember: Once they step foot into Canada, non-Americans can’t be sent back to the U.S. unless the U.S. agrees. The Safe Third Country Agreement allows for asylum seekers who enter Canada at official border posts to be turned back, but not those who cross in between. Canadian governments have tried for years to get the U.S. to change that, to no avail. On Wednesday, Mr. Trudeau said he’s working on it.

Of course, the simplest way to stop people from crossing at Roxham Road would be to scrap the Safe Third Country Agreement. Then asylum-seekers would just show up at official border crossings, as they did before 2004. And as Mr. Legault pointed out the other day, Mr. Trudeau tweeted in 2017 that Canada welcomes those fleeing persecution and war. It’s just that scrapping the agreement would almost certainly bring a lot more of them.

Some have proposed a fence. But obviously, people can go around it. There are lots of places to cross the border. It might disrupt the organized route to Roxham Road but police would probably have to intercept border-crossers at more places.

And there is Mr. Bernier’s idea: Send in the troops. Or police. But the real question is what they would do. Presumably they wouldn’t shoot everyone. Would all asylum-seekers be thrown in jail indefinitely?

Maybe there are better ideas. It would be nice to hear them. But Canadian politicians who don’t tell us how they would do it are avoiding the talk about costs, or the potential for border breaches to proliferate, or locking people up, or toughening the system.

Those are things debated by American politicians, who argue about harsher rules to discourage asylum-seekers from trying to enter the U.S. Mr. Biden is proposing refusing asylum claims from people who travelled through central America.

But now, Mr. Trudeau has essentially admitted he won’t do anything until Mr. Biden agrees to solve the problem for him.

And those such as Mr. Poilievre who call for Roxham Road to be closed are just mouthing meaningless words until they tell us how.

Source: Let’s get politicians to tell us how they would close Roxham Road, not why

François Legault has got his mojo back, or sort of.

After returning from Ottawa this month with a fraction of the billions of additional health care dollars he had been demanding for his province, the Quebec Premier was ridiculed by opposition parties and political pundits alike for being all bark and no bite.

Thanks to Ottawa’s recent transfer to cities in Ontario of asylum seekers arriving at the unofficial border crossing at Roxham Road in Quebec, Mr. Legault has been able to boast to the home crowd that he’s still got it. That his government’s constant efforts to force Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to do something about the “migrant crisis” facing Quebec is finally getting results. Thanks to his leaked letter to Mr. Trudeau and an op-ed in The Globe and Mail, Mr. Legault can tell Quebeckers that he has finally got the rest of Canada’s attention, if not its respect.

In truth, Ottawa last year began bussing some asylum seekers from Roxham Road to hotels in Cornwall, Niagara Falls, Ottawa and Windsor when it could no longer find rooms in Quebec. Since early 2023, those transfers have been occurring on a systematic basis. Mr. Legault wants Ottawa to continue to transfer migrants to other provinces, arguing correctly that Quebec has “taken on a completely disproportionate share” of asylum seekers entering Canada since Roxham Road was reopened in late 2021.

Mr. Legault also wants Mr. Trudeau to permanently “close the breach” in Canada’s border-security by prohibiting migrants from claiming asylum at Roxham Road, as it had temporarily done for an 18-month period during the pandemic. Federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre is calling for Roxham’s closing within 30 days, also citing the pandemic-related closing as proof that Ottawa has the authority to act unilaterally to address the loophole in the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement that enabled more than 39,000 migrants to enter this country in 2022 at what has become our most official unofficial border crossing.

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser called Mr. Poilievre’s ideas “reckless” and lacking in “depth and understanding.” Amid a global migration crisis, Mr. Fraser added, Canada has a “responsibility to implement real, long-term solutions.”

Real, long-term solutions are not this government’s strong suit. It does excel at posturing, virtue signalling and dithering. But it has offered little evidence that it is taking concrete steps to address the increasing flow of asylum seekers at Roxham Road.

It is easy to understand why a government that prefers to project a compassionate image would be reluctant to act in any manner that might make it look heartless to some. Turning asylum seekers away at Roxham Road, in effect surrendering them to U.S. immigration authorities, would subject the Trudeau government to a backlash from within Liberal ranks.

Yet, it must be pointed out that this government has no problem turning away asylum seekers who arrive at official land border crossings. Are those who arrive at Roxham Road any more worthy of refugee status in Canada than the others?

What we do know is that almost half of “irregular border crossers” who arrived in Canada after 2016 saw their asylum claims rejected by the Immigration and Refugee Board or abandoned or withdrew their applications before a final IRB determination. And that the surge in irregular crossings at Roxham Road has left the IRB with a backlog of more than 74,000 cases that is growing rapidly each month. A refugee system that is meant to provide asylum to those fleeing persecution in their country of origin is being exploited by smugglers who prey on vulnerable people seeking to escape economic hardship in Latin America and Africa.

There are those in Liberal circles who argue that the “fundamental premise” at the heart of the STCA – specifically, the designation of the United States as a “safe” country for refugee claimants – no longer holds true. But as the Federal Court of Appeal found in 2021, it is up to the federal cabinet to undertake continual review to ensure that the United States continues to meet the criteria for safe country designation.

Not once since taking power in 2015 has the Trudeau government sought to cancel this designation – not even during the dark days of Donald Trump’s presidency, when some migrant children were separated from their parents.

The Supreme Court of Canada is expected to rule on the STCA this year. Even if it upholds the legality of the agreement, a new proposal by President Joe Biden to turn away all asylum seekers at the U.S. border who arrive from a third country via Mexico raises new questions about Canada’s continued designation of the U.S. as a safe country.

For Mr. Trudeau, there are no “real, long-term solutions” to the Roxham Road dilemma that do not include making tough, even excruciating, choices.

Source: Trudeau can no longer avoid tough choices on Roxham Road

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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