The House

'We need to do a better job' border security minister says

Federal border minister Bill Blair says his government has work to do when it comes to talking to Canadians about illegal border crossings.
An RCMP officer speaks to an asylum seeker who crossed the border at Roxham Road in the summer of 2017. (CBC)
Listen9:17

Federal border minister Bill Blair says his government has work to do when it comes to talking to Canadians about illegal border crossings.

Though Justin Trudeau's Liberals ran on a message of inclusive immigration, they've come under fire recently for the way they've handled asylum seekers.

Nearly 12,000 people have crossed from the U.S. into Canada outside of regular ports of entry so far this year and a new poll suggests the Liberals are losing the political debate over the issue.

A majority of Canadians polled by the Angus Reid Institute say that the number of asylum seekers crossing into the country is too high, while a plurality point to Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer as the best major party leader to handle the issue.

Canadians responding to the poll also called the situation a "crisis."

"I think it clearly demonstrates we need to do a better job," Blair told The House.

"Clearly I've got to do a lot of work in making sure we provide accurate and honest information about what is actually transpiring."

The minister attributed much of the response to misinformation caused by "fear mongering," but acknowledged it's the government's responsibility to combat that effectively.

On Friday, Blair announced an $11-million commitment from the federal government to help Toronto cope with the influx of asylum seekers. Mayor John Tory called it an "important step forward," but cautioned that more money will soon be needed.

Ensuring Canadians feel safe with the way the situation is being tackled by the government is key, Blair said.

"I think we have a responsibility to do our job and to make sure that these processes are appropriately managed, that the interest of Canada and Canadians is maintained, while at the same time we fulfil our obligation."

Supporting immigration was a key plank of the Liberals' election platform in 2015. Now, it seems to be eroding support for the governing party. We ask Bill Blair, minister of border security and organized crime reduction. 9:17