Official Opposition Leader Pierre Poilievre says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should close the unofficial border crossing at Roxham Road in Quebec within 30 days, ending the use of a path that has allowed tens of thousands of refugees to enter Canada.
The Conservative Leader made his demand during a Tuesday news conference on Parliament Hill as Quebec Premier François Legault also pressed Mr. Trudeau for action on Roxham Road, saying in a Globe and Mail column that it will have to be closed. “The sooner the better,” he wrote.
“Quebec has taken on a completely disproportionate share of asylum seekers in Canada. Since the fall of 2022, we have seen the rate of arrivals increasing and this influx cannot continue. Quebec’s capacity to take care of the asylum seekers has now been largely exceeded,” Mr. Legault wrote.
Mr. Poilievre said Canada can close the border crossing because it has control of its borders, and Mr. Trudeau is responsible for those borders.
“So that is why Conservatives are calling for the Prime Minister to implement a plan to close the Roxham Road crossing within 30 days from now,” the Conservative Leader said.
Mr. Poilievre said Canada needs more immigrants but processes around their arrival in Canada need to be handled in an orderly and lawful fashion. He also said the federal government should deal with the backlog of tens of thousands of unprocessed refugee claims.
Federal Immigration Minister Sean Fraser was dismissive of the Conservative Leader’s demands. “The ideas put forward by Pierre Poilievre are not only reckless, but they lack depth and understanding. As Canada works to navigate a global migration crisis, it is our responsibility to implement real, long-term solutions,” Mr. Fraser said in a statement.
Closing Roxham Road on a 30-day timeline without a plan to manage the consequences would only promote other irregular crossings, placing migrants in danger and leaving communities worse off in their ability to respond, he said.
Roxham Road runs across the Canada-U.S. border between Quebec and New York State, and has been a pathway for tens of thousands of people seeking refugee status in Canada.
Because it is not an official border crossing, it is not covered by the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement under which migrants seeking refugee status at an official land entry must do so in the first country they arrive in.
In his column, Mr. Legault said that Mr. Trudeau was generous in 2017 by inviting those fleeing persecution, terror and war to come to Canada, but the number of asylum seekers has exploded as a result, with more than 39,000 coming to Quebec last year, largely via Roxham Road. The Premier said an additional 20,000 have turned up at various other points of arrival.
“Mr. Trudeau’s government should send the message loud and clear: would-be migrants shouldn’t come via Roxham Road anymore,” Mr. Legault wrote.
“The basic problem is the Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States, which made it possible to open this breach in the border. Mr. Trudeau’s government must conclude a new version of this agreement as soon as possible that applies to all points of entry into Canada, whether regular or irregular.”
Last week, Quebec Minister of Immigration Christine Fréchette said Ottawa had been paying to move many of the recent migrants who’ve crossed at Roxham Road to other provinces.
Mr. Poilievre said, on Tuesday, that the fault on the issue does not lie with U.S. President Joe Biden, saying the problem started before the former U.S. vice-president was elected president.
“And the Prime Minister has tried to schluff off the problem on the Americans again and again, but it is not any other country’s job to protect our borders,” he said.
The Conservative Leader did not elaborate when asked about the specific logistics of closing Roxham Road, and the question of whether he would use a fence or a wall.
Mireille Paquet, the research chair in the politics of immigration at Concordia University in Montreal, said in an interview that Mr. Poilievre’s suggestions did not constitute a realistic solution because they would go against international commitments, and probably push refugees to seek crossing options elsewhere.
“What I would say is there are no simple solutions,” she said. “We need to have a real national conversation about our role in the international system when it comes to refugee protection.”
According to a new poll from Nanos research, four in 10 Canadians say there is not enough law enforcement present at the border to respond to “irregular border crossings.”
The margin of error for the phone and online survey is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. A total of 1,054 Canadians, 18 years or older, were randomly selected for the survey between Jan. 27 and Jan. 30.
With a report from Janice Dickson in Ottawa