By Nancy Osborne
Last week I received a flyer in the mail from our Federal Member of Parliament, Tony Clement. I had heard about the flyer and had seen part of it copied onto social media but somehow I was still unprepared for the message being shared. The flyer encourages constituents to “Have their say.” So, I did some research and am having my say.
Over the past two years there has been an influx in the number of people and families seeking asylum in Canada. This influx can reasonably be attributed to a coinciding change of political environment in the US. People who previously did not live in fear of the US government, now do. Many Canadians traveling to the US have experienced these changes when they cross the border. Indeed, these changes have left many Canadians reluctant to travel to or transit through the US.
This can hardly be blamed on the current Canadian Government, the Opposition or even the previous Conservative Government.
The flyer received from the Member of Parliament for Parry Sound-Muskoka appears to be an information bulletin about illegal border crossings. There is a quote from the leader of the Conservative Party, Andrew Scheer, stating, “We believe families who follow the rules to come to Canada should come before those who attempt to cross the border illegally.”
According to the Government of Canada website – Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada – Irregular border crossings and asylum in Canada; asylum claims are governed by international treaties to which Canada is a signatory and as a result:
- Canada cannot close the border to asylum claimants.
- Canada has a legal responsibility to assess asylum claims, regardless of how the claimants enter the country.
- Asylum claimants and immigrants are not the same thing.
- Asylum claimants are not placed ahead of immigrants who are coming to Canada from abroad through other immigration streams.
- Canada cannot send asylum claimants back to where they came from without a hearing.
- Asylum claimants entering irregularly are immediately detained and undergo thorough security and background screening. If they pose a risk, they are barred from making an asylum claim, detained further and removed.
- The Safe Third Country Agreement does not apply to claimants who have entered Canada at a location that is not a port of entry.
The bulletin from Tony Clement MP, goes on to state, “The arrival of over 10,700 illegal border crossers has undermined our immigration system and has shortchanged thousands of people who are trying to legally come to Canada. This is completely unfair to everyone who has waited years to come to Canada through the proper channels.”
Prior to the change of political environment in the US, Canadians rarely heard about irregular border crossings or asylum claimants. The majority of us knew little about the process and now generally rely on the leaders in our community to guide us in our understanding.
Most of us would interpret the statement in this bulletin to mean that the asylum claims made by those who do not cross at regular border crossings are somehow delaying and interfering with immigrants who have applied to come to Canada. However, asylum claimants and immigrants are not the same and their applications are processed through separate streams.
Most of us would also interpret the statement to mean that those claiming asylum are doing so illegally which is not correct.
It is true that there has been an increase in the number of people entering Canada at irregular crossing points and they are not crossing legally. All are detained when intercepted, but in accordance with international treaties, the Government of Canada is obliged to treat those making a claim for asylum differently than those who simply enter the country at irregular crossings.
I am struggling to understand the purpose for this bulletin. I would hope it is not an attempt to generate an emotional response from constituents who might be unfamiliar with the legal definitions of immigrants and asylum claimants or the legal responsibilities of the Government of Canada.
How much do you know about asylum claims in Canada? Take this Government of Canada quiz and find out.
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Nancy Osborne has seen some terrible things throughout her military career and during her time with the United Nations as a security specialist. Serving in the Security Branch of the Canadian military, Osborne enlisted as a Private and retired as a Major 21 years later. She was honoured with a CD (the post-nominal letters for the Canadian Forces Decoration) and is recipient of the Commemorative Medal for the 125th Anniversary of Canadian Confederation in recognition of a significant contribution to Canada as well as a Commander’s Commendation. Following retirement, Nancy was recruited in 2002 by the United Nations as one of the first women ever deployed as a security risk adviser in the support of UN humanitarian operations in high threat environments. In 2010, Nancy was appointed as a security manager at UNICEF Headquarters in New York. From there she managed global emergencies affecting UNICEF staff and provided extended surge support in places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti and South Sudan. When Nancy retired she thought that it would be a shame not to use all of that training so she launched a not-for-profit called I Got This as a platform for workshops called Unlocking Your Instincts for women.