Goodale rejects former colleague's claim of long waits by Manitoba asylum seekers

A Manitoba MP is urging Ottawa and one of her former cabinet colleagues — Ralph Goodale —to provide more resources to the Manitoba border in light of a recent surge of asylum seekers.

Border agency will ask for help 'should more resources be required,' minister's office says

Former federal labour minister MaryAnn Mihychuk wants more resources devoted to the border at Emerson, Man., to help address a wave of asylum seekers. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Canada's public safety minister has rejected a statement from a former cabinet colleague that asylum seekers coming to the Manitoba border have had to wait more than a day and a half to be processed.

MaryAnn Mihychuk, the rookie Liberal MP for Kildonan-St. Paul, who met with Canada Border Services agents in Emerson, Man., as part of an unofficial visit on Saturday, said border staff don't have the resources needed to handle future refugee claimants who are taken to the port for processing.

She told CBC Radio Sunday she wants resources to be ramped up at the Manitoba border in light of a recent surge of asylum seekers, who've been trickling into the province.

"Sometimes they don't have the capacity," Mihychuk, who was Canada's labour minister before being removed from cabinet in January, told CBC Manitoba's Weekend Morning Show Sunday.

But a spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale rejected Mihychuk's call and said the Emerson border is already sufficiently staffed by the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency.

"Should more resources be required, they will let us know," Scott Bardsley said in a statement Sunday morning.

UN representative 'very much impressed'

Bardsley added Canada's representative from the United Nations Refugee Agency, Jean-Nicolas Beuze,​ said he was "very much impressed by both the CBSA and the RCMP," who were dealing with refugee claimants in Lacolle, Que.

Mihychuk said some refugee claimants have had to wait more than a day and a half to be processed at the Emerson port.

"They may be hungry, they don't have clothing, they need a place to rest."

Bardsley said Mihychuk's claim about processing times is incorrect, and he said Mounties as well as the border agency may ramp up staff if needed.

7 more asylum seekers arrive

A CBC journalist spotted a group of seven asylum seekers walking into Manitoba around 4:30 a.m. Sunday. (Jill Coubrough / CBC)

The Manitoba government said Friday that more than 130 asylum seekers have snuck into Manitoba alone this year.

That number grew again Sunday morning when a CBC journalist spoke to seven more walking into the province around 4:30 a.m.

The asylum seekers are using an exception in the controversial 2004 Safe Third Country Agreement, which lets a person make a refugee claim in Canada if he or she has entered the country somewhere other than an official port of entry, like a field near a border crossing.

'More can be done'

Mihychuk said the federal government has given more resources to RCMP in Emerson as well as the border services agency, but still it's not enough.

"From my view, we need to perhaps enhance more the border facilities because people might need emergency food and a place to rest."

"More can be done."

Mihychuk said when she returns to Ottawa, she will "suggest" that Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale provide more border agents at Emerson to deal with future waves of refugee claimants.

"This is not going to disappear in the short term. It's going to continue and we're going to have to work on the logistics."

About the Author

​Austin Grabish started reporting when he was young, landing his first byline when he was just 18. He joined CBC in 2016 after freelancing for several outlets. ​​In 2018, he was part of a team of CBC journalists who won the Ron Laidlaw Award for the corporation's extensive digital coverage on asylum seekers crossing into Canada. Email:

with files from Nadia Kidwai