Ralph Goodale to raise illegal border crossings with U.S. officials in coming days

Canada's public safety minister says he'll be discussing the growing issue of asylum seekers trying to sneak across the border into Canada with senior officials in the United States in the coming few days.

'They need to be fully apprised of the consequences,' public safety minister says

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the Liberal government is monitoring the ongoing issue of asylum seekers illegally crossing into Canada from the U.S. (Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press)

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says he'll be discussing the growing issue of asylum seekers sneaking across the border with senior officials in the United States in the coming days.

Goodale, who oversees the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency, said the government is already in communication with some U.S. authorities about the impact unannounced asylum seekers are having on the Canadian refugee system.

"They need to be fully informed of the circumstances that Canada is dealing with for international reasons. But the very obvious one is that this flow is originating in their country and they need to be fully apprised of the consequences that we're dealing with on our side of the border," Goodale told CBC's The House.

"We're obviously explaining to them what we're dealing with … and making that sure they understand what's happening on their side of the border to fill in any information gaps," he told host Chris Hall.

Safe Third Country agreement 

What is unlikely to be raised in those talks, however, is the Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the U.S. The agreement requires claimants, in most cases, to request refugee protection in the first safe country they arrive in.

The agreement applies to claimants who try to enter at official border crossings, prompting some critics to argue it is driving some people to put their health at risk by crossing at unauthorized entry points.

"The terms of the agreement are what they are," Goodale said. "The fact of the matter is we have to deal with the real life circumstances that we are facing. We've also had confirmation from the UN High Commission for Refugees that they do not see a basis in the United States for any deviation from the agreement."

The public safety minister said the government is making sure the U.S. understands 'what's happening on their side of the border to fill in any information gaps.' (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

On Thursday Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump discussed border co-operation during a phone call, but it's not clear if the issue of illegal border crossings was broached.

According to a statement issued by the White House, "President Trump emphasized the importance of working closely with Canada on cross-border issues, including implementation of his administration's actions to protect America from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals and others."

Domestically, Goodale said his government is monitoring the situation "and trying to plan forward all of the various potential scenarios depending on a whole series of 'what ifs?' including changes in the weather that are obviously taking place " he said.


Earlier this month, Goodale said he would bring up the difficulties some Canadians are experiencing at the border when he meets face-to-face with his U.S. counterpart, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly.

The Nexus trusted-traveller cards of about 200 Canadian permanent residents were suddenly cancelled after Trump issued an executive immigration order banning visitors from seven largely Muslim countries. Those cards were later reinstated, according to Goodale, but how long they remain valid is in question. 

Trump promised a new executive order on travel after his initial order faced challenges in the courts.

The Canada-U.S. border was also a target in the House of Commons this week as Goodale's pre-clearance bill, also known as Bill C-23, came up for a second reading.

Under pre-clearance, travellers don't have to pass through customs in the U.S., because they've already done so before departing Canada.

The bill was originally negotiated during Barack Obama's time as president and the NDP has argued the bill doesn't take into account what it called "the climate of uncertainty at the border" created by the Trump administration's recently adopted immigration policies.

"Actually, if anything it makes the case more compelling. In order to be able to expand pre-clearance and have the whole operation take place on the Canadian side of the border under the umbrella of the Canadian charter. It's a stronger argument," Goodale told The House.