The official opposition has recently shifted its focus to immigration stoking fears about the influx of asylum seekers and undermining Canadians’ views of Canada’s immigration system.
Canada’s immigration system is world class and more than 300 million people a year are offered the chance to call Canada home under three broad categories – economic immigration, family reunification and humanitarian consideration.
Regardless of how you show up on Canada’s doorstep there are no free passes. When you enter Canada illegally outside an official point of entry, a strict process is in place, including interception and arrest by police.
In fact, there are no guarantees that you will be able to stay in Canada until it is determined you are in need of Canada’s protection.
Asylum seekers like those who have been crossing the Canada-US border in recent months are asking for protection under international and Canadian law. Contrary to claims they are “jumping the queue”, asylum seekers are processed under a separate category neither ahead or behind applicants for immigration, permanent residence or citizenship.
Individuals who irregularly enter Canada between established ports of entry are referred to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) whereas those coming to Canada through the regular immigration streams are processed through Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
In the case of those seeking asylum, decisions on admissibility are made by independent IRB adjudicators. Those accepted get protected person status and can apply to become permanent residents, while those who do not meet the refugee definition are asked to leave or are deported.
For example, the acceptance rate for Haitian asylum claimants who crossed irregularly into Canada in 2017 and had their claims finalized was 8%.
To those constituents who have written to me on this issue let there be no confusion; our Government’s number one commitment is to protect the safety of Canadians and keep our borders secure, while respecting international obligations and ensuring an orderly migration system.
We are investing $173.2M to further strengthen security operations at the Canada-US border and to ensure that we can continue to securely and effectively process asylum seekers.
Ironically, the official opposition, which has been accusing the government of failing on this front, cut $390 million from the Canada Border Service Agency while in government and more recently voted against new investments proposed in Budget 2018 to manage irregular migration.
For those who call on the government to send asylum seekers back, asylum claims are governed in part by international treaties to which Canada is a signatory. As such, we have a legal responsibility to assess asylum claims made under these international conventions.
Our immigration system is well-managed and supported by hardworking individuals including the Canada Border Services Agency, CSIS and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who maintain a high standard of service to secure the flow of travellers across our borders.
Independent observers have praised our Government’s response. As the UN Refugee Agency has said: “Canada is very well equipped to respond.”
Our Government will continue to ensure the safety of Canadians while supporting an efficient and responsive asylum system, all while treating people seeking protection with compassion and affording them due process under the law.
Stephen Fuhr is the Member of Parliament for Kelowna-Lake Country