Macklin: What happens when Roxham Road is closed

Useful commentary as always on some of the likely impacts. However, I am not convinced that all of the asylum seekers at Roxham Road would pursue more risky routes as their risk/benefit calculation would likely lead some not to pursue a more hazardous route.

No way of testing this hypothesis but arguably, many of the Roxham Road asylum seekers are in less desperate situations than those South of the USA border or crossing the Mediterranean.:

The other risk is of course to public support for immigration over this perceived loophole and the perception the government is not managing the border and immigration more generally:

Quebec Premier François Legault, supported by federal Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre, urged the federal government to shut down Roxham Road. This is the spot where, over the past six years, thousands of refugee claimants crossed into Canada and asked for refugee protection. 

The numbers who enter may seem high to some Canadians, but relative to the number of asylum seekers seeking protection in other countries, it is a trickle. It is also a fraction of those we have welcomed from Ukraine in the past year. No one can validly claim to know in advance whether the people who cross at Roxham Road meet the refugee definition, so attempts to distinguish them from Ukrainians on that basis is disingenuous.

The premier of Quebec complains about the alleged unfairness of Quebec bearing costs associated with asylum seekers who enter at Roxham Road. Canada allocates a proportion of federal funding to Quebec for newcomer settlement that is not indexed to the actual number of newcomers that Quebec admits. Quebec receives proportionately more money than other provinces to settle newcomers and does not account for how it spends it. Legault’s claim that Quebec lacks money and capacity to manage Roxham Road arrivals deserves little sympathy. 

Up until 2004, asylum seekers travelling overland would have entered in a safe, orderly way by presenting themselves at an official port of entry at the Canada-U.S. border. Then, the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement turned ports of entry into brick walls for asylum seekers. 

Canada did this by exploiting a loophole in the Refugee Convention, which prohibits states from sending refugees back to countries of origin, but is silent about deflecting them to third countries (in this case, the U.S.). Fast forward a few years, and we discover that some asylum seekers are crossing into Canada at Roxham Road. It is not unlawful for a refugee to enter a country “irregularly” under the Refugee Convention or Canadian immigration law. Refugee law recognizes that desperate people will take desperate measures. 

Roxham Road is an open secret. No one needs a smuggler to find out about it, or to find it. If Roxham Road is blocked, will people become less desperate? Not likely. But they will be forced to take more dangerous and clandestine measures to avoid detection and apprehension. So here are the government programs that politicians are really proposing when they advocate making it legally impossible for asylum seekers to enter Canada:

Job Creation Program for Smugglers: Once prohibited from presenting themselves to Canadian authorities in a safe and orderly way at a port of entry, asylum seekers will increasingly rely on smugglers to guide them into Canada surreptitiously. The smuggling business will grow in response to this government-created demand and become increasingly lucrative, as well as violent and lethal. 

People will pay, and if they don’t have the money, they will borrow it and become indebted to traffickers, who will exploit them. Smuggling will proliferate. We will hear more stories about more people who suffer debilitating injury or freeze to death trying to cross the border from U.S. into Canada or vice versa. Smugglers will be blamed for facilitating border crossing, and for the injuries and deaths that ensue. Wait for it.

Stimulus Package for Military and Security Contractors: Pundits and politicians will demand that Canada invest in surveillance, military and physical infrastructure along a 9,000 km Canada-U.S. border in order to halt the “invasion” of people seeking refugee protection. 

They will describe this as a “humanitarian” program to protect hapless asylum seekers from predation by ruthless smugglers and traffickers. Military and security contractors will line up to proffer their high-tech gadgets and high-priced solutions. Turning a 9,000 km border into a high-tech wall is an expensive, cruel and futile fantasy. The border will be a perpetual crisis zone, where no walls are high enough, no tactics are effective enough, and no amount of money spent is ever enough. Wait for it.

These are the lessons from Fortress Europe and from Australia’s Pacific Solution. Rumours already abound that the Liberals are pressing the United States to somehow “extend” the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement along the full length of the Canadian border. President Biden is proposing a similar rule at its southern border. Wait for it.

Source: Macklin: What happens when Roxham Road is closed

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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: