U.S. getting better at informing Ottawa of immigration changes that impact Canada, Goodale says

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says the U.S. is doing a better job of informing Canada of immigration changes that may prompt people living in the U.S. on special immigration status to try to cross the border into Canada illegally.

New figures show nearly half of illegal border crossers are Haitian

An RCMP officer informs a migrant couple of the location of a legal border station, shortly before they illegally crossed from Champlain, N.Y., to Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Que., using Roxham Road. (Charles Krupa/Associated Press)

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says the U.S. is doing a better job of informing Canada of immigration changes that may prompt people living in the U.S. on special immigration status to try to cross the border into Canada illegally. 

"The United States needs to be cognizant of the fact that when they take certain steps within their jurisdiction, those steps have consequences elsewhere," Goodale told reporters Thursday. "It would appear from the most recent announcements from Homeland Security that they are factoring that into the decision making." 

Goodale made the remarks after meeting with the federal task force that is mapping out a contingency plan to deal with the influx of people illegally crossing the border into Canada. It was the group's sixth meeting, and comes as the spike in summer crossings begins to slow down.

Goodale on processing asylum-seekers

5 years ago
Duration 2:16
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale discusses the latest data on asylum-seekers

Officials say the number of irregular crossings has decreased to about 60 a day, from what had swelled to 250 in the warmer months. 

The decline comes as the federal government continues an outreach and public awareness campaign to try to correct misinformation spreading on social media that Canada has an open door to migrants.

MPs and embassy staff have been meeting with diaspora, community groups, lawyers and government officials to explain how Canada's immigration system works and to send the message that crossing outside a legal border point is not a "free ticket" into the country.

Data released by the Immigration and Refugee Board Wednesday shows that 3,257 cases of irregular crossers were referred to the IRB in October, down from 5,400 in September.

In a nine-month period this year, there were 14,467 refugee claims made by people who crossed into Canada outside legal border points, and nearly half of them were from Haiti.

The 6,304 citizens of Haiti who claimed refugee status after crossing illegally into Canada between February and October represented about 44 per cent of the total number.

Only 298 have had their claims finalized so far, and just 29 of them, or 10 per cent, have been accepted.

Another 139 claims from Haitians were rejected, 68 were abandoned and 62 were withdrawn or terminated, according to the data.

'Cautionary tale'

The fact that the number of successful Haitian claims is "very low" should serve as a cautionary tale for those still contemplating crossing into Canada illegally from the U.S. to seek asylum, said Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen.

"Coming to Canada first of all has to be done through regular channels, and secondly the asylum system is only for people who are in genuine need of protection," Hussen said.

"It's not for everyone."

Haiti was the top country of origin for irregular border-crossers in the nine-month period, followed by Nigeria, from which 1,911 people crossed into Canada.

So far, 79 Nigerians have had their protection claims accepted, 74 were turned down and another 18 either abandoned or withdrew their claim.

Other countries of origin, and the number of people who crossed the border, were:

  • Turkey, 631.
  • Syria, 539.
  • Eritrea, 456.
  • Yemen, 412.
  • U.S., 366.
  • Sudan, 307.
  • Dijibouti, 296.
  • Pakistan, 233.

Of the total 14,467 referrals to the IRB, 1,572 cases have been finalized and 941 have been accepted. It can take several months for a case to be finalized, and failed claimants can appeal the decision.

Asylum seekers step out of a tent to receive lunch at the Canada-U.S. border in Lacolle, Que., on Aug. 10, 2017. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

Data for February and March is considered partial, as it preceded a new tracking system for irregular border-crossers.

Waves of Haitians crossed into Canada from the United States this summer, prompted by a decision by U.S. President Donald Trump to terminate temporary protected status that has allowed 60,000 Haitians to live and work in the U.S.

Most of them crossed into Canada at Lacolle, Que.

742 Haitians on deportation list

The Homeland Security Department said conditions in Haiti have improved significantly after the 2010 earthquake, so they have until July 2019 to apply for citizenship or face deportation.

Hussen's office declined to speculate on what the U.S. decision could mean for numbers entering Canada, noting that in past there are fluctuations year to year, and also within years.

Canada's own program granting Haitian nationals temporary refuge — which suspended removals after the earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people — expired on Aug. 4, 2016. 

That meant the 3,200 Haitians who were in Canada without status had to apply for residency on humanitarian and compassionate grounds in order to stay or they would be subject to removal.

Information provided to CBC News by the Canada Border Services Agency shows that 742 people from Haiti are currently on the deportation list.


Kathleen Harris

Senior producer, Politics

Kathleen Harris is the senior producer for CBC.ca in the CBC's Parliament Hill bureau.

With files from The Canadian Press


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