The number of border crossers spiked by nearly 23 per cent between June and July, following a brief decrease in the number of asylum seekers illegally crossing into Canada between official border posts earlier this year.
The RCMP intercepted 1,634 asylum claimants along the Canada-U.S. land border in July – mostly in Quebec – according to new statistics released by the Immigration Department. The number of border crossers is up after the Liberal government touted a steady decrease in the months leading up to July.
The monthly number of border crossers spiked this year at 2,560 in April, but fell to 1,869 in May and 1,263 in June – something Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen has credited to the government’s efforts to discourage would-be asylum seekers from crossing into Canada between authorized border posts. However, his office said the government expected an increase in July.
“We anticipated a spike because that’s what we saw last year," said Mathieu Genest, Mr. Hussen’s press secretary.
Asylum seekers started flooding the border by the thousands in July, 2017, when more than 3,100 people crossed from the United States into Canada between official ports of entry. Most of the illegal crossings have taken place at an unofficial crossing point in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Que.
Louis Dumas, director-general of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s domestic network, compared July’s numbers to the same time period last year.
“Today if we look at the number of arrivals over the course of July, they average approximately 50 to 55 arrivals [per day]. Last year … I remember a famous Sunday in the end of July, we had over 450 individuals arriving at the same time,” Mr. Dumas said.
He made the comments on Monday during a meeting with city council in Cornwall, Ont., which is being kept on standby as a backup housing location for asylum seekers in the case of another surge in arrivals.
Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel said the increase in border crossers in July speaks to the government’s inability to manage the asylum-seeker problem.
“This is just reconfirmation that the government has made this a new and permanent stream of entry into the country," Ms. Rempel said. "They owe it to the Canadian public to say how much this is going to cost.”
Thousands of border crossers have made their way from Quebec to Ontario, putting pressure on the province’s housing and social services, according to the Ontario government. Last month, the province said the federal government owes it $200-million in costs associated with the border crossers. A senior federal government source said on Tuesday that Ottawa is still reviewing the request.
The demand came after Ontario withdrew its support for the resettlement of the asylum seekers, saying that the federal government created the problem and should pick up the tab to fix it. Despite Ontario’s refusal to co-operate, the federal government is marching ahead with plans to create a “triage system” that would move some asylum seekers to areas outside of Toronto. Mr. Genest said the government will be launching a pilot project with select Ontario municipalities in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, newly appointed Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc will replace Transport Minister Marc Garneau as chair of the federal-provincial task force on irregular migration. Mr. Hussen and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale will no longer sit on the committee, as new Border Security Minister Bill Blair takes over the asylum-seeker file. NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan said there is a “ton of confusion” as to who is in charge of the asylum-seeker issue, with four ministers now involved.