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Are we headed for a refugee crisis on our border? Ottawa needs to tell us

There's a far-fetched criticism of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau these days that says he is personally responsible for the influx of people illegally entering Canada from the United States and asking for refugee status.

His crime? After U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order in January banning immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries, Mr. Trudeau tweeted this message: "To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength."

In the opinion of some critics, including Conservative Party leadership candidate Michael Chong, the message was interpreted by people around the world to mean that "they were welcome to cross the border illegally and stay here in Canada," as Mr. Chong put it during a leadership debate on Sunday.

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Really? Mr. Trudeau's tweet was posted January 28, by which time the flood of refugee claimants into Quebec and Manitoba was well under way. Whatever else his tweet was, it was not a magical incantation compelling people to commit an illegal act in the past.

But while Mr. Trudeau doesn't need to tweet out a corrective, his government ought to tell the Canadian people whether or not this is an incipient crisis.

Police say they arrested 1,134 people – all of them seeking refugee status – illegally crossing the border from the U.S. in January and February. The police haven't released figures for March, but the weather is warming, Mr. Trump is still President, and there is valid reason to believe the surge could continue.

Canadians are concerned, and rightly so. They see an absurd loophole in the fact that refugee claimants who enter Canada from the U.S. via an unguarded farm field or back road are allowed to make a refugee claim, while those who try to come in through a proper port of entry are turned away.

This contradiction is explained by Canada's competing treaty obligations, and it might be acceptable under normal circumstances. But it is problematic if there is a flood of people running away from Mr. Trump's America and hoping for a better shot at refugee status in Canada.

Ottawa needs to tell Canadians whether or not the situation is getting worse as the spring progresses, and how it will deal with it if it does. Right now, we know very little, and that isn't right.

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