Skip to main content

Asylum seekers sort out their luggage at a processing centre after crossing the border into Canada from the U.S., on Aug. 21, 2017, near Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Que.Paul Chiasson/The Globe and Mail

A decision by the Trump administration to yank protected status for thousands of Haitians doesn't appear to have prompted a new surge of asylum seekers at the Canada-U.S. border.

Data published Tuesday by the federal government show the RCMP stopped 1,623 people in November, down from 1,890 in October.

Still, while the number of border crossers is down markedly since a summer surge, the number of people stopped in just those two months is more than the RCMP stopped in all of 2016, suggesting a major outreach effort by the Liberals hasn't entirely stemmed the tide.

Just 2,500 people were apprehended coming into Canada between official ports of entry last year, compared with 18,615 so far in 2017.

In August, the RCMP had stopped over 5,000 people in Quebec alone as they crossed into Canada to seek asylum. Many were believed to be propelled north by an impending change to U.S. immigration policy that would see the resumption of deportations to Haiti, following a pause instituted after the 2010 earthquake.

The U.S. formally announced in November that temporary protected status for Haitians would be lifted in 2019, raising fears of new pressures at the Canada-U.S. border. Since the summer spike, Canadian officials have conducted a massive outreach effort in the U.S., including dispatching members of Parliament and directing consulates to connect with community organizations representing not just Haitians but nationals of other Central American countries whose protected status is in limbo.

The government has said they feel those efforts at the very least have corrected myths about the Canadian asylum system, including that a special program for people with that protected status exists here. But they've said they do remain on guard against the potential for future waves of would-be refugees and are ready to spool up a response in short order should one materialize.

The data released Tuesday suggest that, overall, asylum claims filed in Canada dropped slightly last month.

Canada Border Services Agency and the Immigration Department reported processing just over 4,000 requests, down from 4,760 in October.

In total, the two agencies have now processed over 45,000 asylum claims this year – more than double the number of claims they dealt with last year.

Once those claims are processed, they're referred to the Immigration and Refugee Board for a hearing.

The board is grappling with a volume of cases not seen in nearly 10 years and has implemented several measures designed to speed up the process and avoid growing backlogs.

The measures were the work of chairperson Mario Dion, but he is now the Liberal government's choice to replace outgoing ethics commissioner Mary Dawson, leaving his position at the IRB vacant.

An interim chairperson is expected to be named in the new year.

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said the document, which was used at a Quebec border crossing, runs 'against our values as a society.'

The Canadian Press