This is Canada's real refugee problem -

This is Canada’s real refugee problem

It’s not Canada’s willingness to take in large numbers of them. It’s our woeful lack of preparation.

Two women claiming to be from Yemen are detained by a Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officer after crossing the U.S.-Canada border into Hemmingford, Quebec on February 22, 2017.  (Christinne Muschi/Reuters)

Two women claiming to be from Yemen are detained by a Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officer after crossing the U.S.-Canada border into Hemmingford, Quebec on February 22, 2017. (Christinne Muschi/Reuters)

It’s good to know that with all the shouting about refugees that’s been going on lately, most Canadians seem to be keeping their cool. The federal government’s latest tracking poll on attitudes toward immigrants and refugees, released March 1, shows that fewer than a third of us think Canada’s refugee intake is too high. Two of every five Canadians think what Canada’s doing about refugees is just about right.

But a confluence of misapprehensions in both Canada and the United States could quickly jinx things.

For starters, quite a few Americans, as usual, are under the impression that Canada’s border controls and refugee screening systems are either too lax, or more just and fair, than the way things generally work in the United States. They’re neither. Similarly, Canadians are beginning to think that the internal American refugee adjudication system has tightened up terribly since Donald Trump was elected president last November. It hasn’t.

If heartwarming images of Mounties helping asylum-seekers slip into this country across remote and unguarded sections of the Canada-U.S. border are starting to leave you with the impression that some sort of flood of migrants has begun pouring into Canada lately, you would be wrong.

MORE: A refugee flood? Pull yourself together, Canada

Ahmed Hussen, Canada’s new minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, is playing everything cool. Maybe too cool. If things go the way NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair says he expects, the warming weather could cause asylum-seekers to begin streaming north. Things could go sideways fast, and not just because of a possible hardening of Canadian attitudes.

Hussen inherited a department that was already woefully ill-equipped to handle a volume of cross-border asylum-seekers that has been on a steep upward climb for several years. The 2004 Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the U.S. reduced land-border asylum-seekers to a trickle, but then the numbers started climbing again, approaching pre-2004 heights long before Trump was elected president last November. By 2013, border claims were up to nearly 3,000, and by 2016 the number had reached 7,000.

MORE: Our profile of Ahmed Hussen

There’s been a definite spike in the cross-border numbers since Trump’s election, with sometimes 20 people a day arriving at some crossing points following Trump’s chaos-inducing Executive Order 13769, signed on Jan. 27. The order is sometimes described, unhelpfully, as a “Muslim ban.” But it’s just as misleadingly described by its own official subtitle, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” There’s no evidence it will do anything of the kind.

The confusion and panic the order set off continue even though it was temporarily suspended by a court judgement a few days later. (And even before the order’s suspension, Hussen and his officials said they’d secured assurances from their American counterparts that Canadian permanent residents from the countries listed in the order—Iran, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya and Yemen—would not be hassled at U.S. border crossings.)

Already drawn at least partly by impressions telegraphed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Somalis, Eritreans, Ghanians and others awaiting refugee hearings in the United States are packing up and heading north, sometimes making dangerous nighttime treks across frozen prairie fields into Canada. Across the United States, well-meaning church and refugee-aid organizations are now talking about developing an “underground railroad” network to help worried asylum-seekers make their way into Canada. But that might not do them much good.

MORE: Jason Markusoff’s report on the ‘new underground railroad’

Canada’s refugee resettlement numbers are far more generous than the targets set by the United States. There’s nothing new about that, but there’s no practical difference between Canadian and American security controls and eligibility criteria. Once in Canada, northbound asylum-seekers are processed by the RCMP and the Canadian Border Security Agency then referred to the Immigration and Refugee Board—which is already fumbling through a backlog of 19,000 applications.

MORE: Does Canada have too many immigrants?

Rejected applicants will not simply be sent back to the United States to try their luck again. They’re expected to leave for whatever country will take them, or go back to their home countries. There’s a growing body of opinion in Canada that suspending the Safe Third Country Agreement—part of a suite of continental-perimeter measures between Canada and the U.S. to address post-9/11 security concerns—will somehow smooth things over by allowing people to make refugee claims at land border crossings. But Hussen’s not budging. “We will not get out of the Safe Third Country Agreement because the United States continues to meet its international obligations with respect to its domestic asylum system,” Hussen says.

But keeping your head in what looks like a crisis is one thing, and doing nothing in the hopes that the chaos will pass is quite another. And that seems to be what Canada would rather do right now.



This is Canada’s real refugee problem

  1. Well SW Ont where I live has been warm and snow-free all winter and we haven’t been trampled in the rush! But who knows…..Trump may be there for 8 years, and he’s a crackpot.

    Cons need to have the difference between ‘immigrant’ and ‘refugee’ explained…..and to be told what the immigration process is. Then they need to be told why we take in refugees.

    Finally….I have always thought that we could do a better job. Canada excels at multi-culti and we could teach the world a lot about how to deal with it. Merkel and Holland don’t think it works…..but indeed it does.

    However every time we have refugees a certain element in our society panics……and run for their bunkers. We need to treat our newcomers better…..and without the alt-right hysteria.

    I remember Vietnamese being terrified when kids in costume knocked on their doors on Halloween. We forgot to warn them……since no such light-hearted fun exists in Viet Nam.

    However, welcoming newcomers to Canada is a genuine Canadian value, and one we treasure.

    From Loyalists to slaves to Ukrainians, Boat people, Tamils and so on.

    We’ve flubbed badly a couple of times, but we don’t want that to happen ever again.

    The photo of the Mountie smiling at that little girl should hang in every classroom in the country.

    It’s the perfect image of Canada.

    • And the other segment of society runs for their handbook on moral superiority. Since I disagree with you I am automatically labelled a racist, xenophobic, islamophobic and intolerant. Well, perhaps I am but I am a middle class blue collar Canadian that does not want my country to end up like the countries that these people come from.

      • Well ‘blue collar’ is your first problem

        Your second problem is denying a chance to other people

        PS Blue collar is not middle class….it’s working class.

      • Larry, most Canadians share your goal, i.e., to prevent our country from ending up like the countries our refugees come from. I think we share other goals, e.g., to preserve our democracy and to create a fair society.

        Where we will sometimes disagree is how to achieve these, and other, goals.

        I’m not sure I understand your specific disagreement, and when we don’t understand each other, we can’t work together to find the solutions to our problems.

        Democracy doesn’t work unless we reach out to each other, learn from each other (regardless of socio-economic class or gender or race or any of the other potential barriers to communication), and then act to find solutions and, yes, compromises.

        So, if you are reading this comment, I’d love it if you would teach me more about the way you view the issues raised in this article. Seriously.

      • Macleans says no evidence US bill will prevent terrorists. How can u say this now? It may well accomplish it’s task. This kind of statement is fake news and sounds like a preacher or a teacher rather than a news outlet. Same with your statement nobody new supports cons. You have no idea and are clearly trying to mold opinion rather than report news. How much $ does Macleans get to be government press agency?

  2. I could agree that it may seem like the government is doing nothing, but that is an inaccurate assertion. The government is often comparable to a duck that seems inactive above water, but I can assure you the bureaucrats in the public service are paddling furiously to assess, analyze, describe likely scenarios, present options and moreover, make recommendations about those options. Just because you don’t see it yet, it doesn’t mean that that preparation is not happening. When the issue evolves into requiring a systematic response (20 asylum seekers a day is not a national emergency) then a response will indeed be forthcoming. The lag time between identification of an issue and response to that issue is usually attributable to the investment in a cohesive and comprehensive response, be that for better or worse.

    • “The government is often comparable to a duck that seems inactive above water, but I can assure you the bureaucrats in the public service are paddling furiously”

      I love this analogy, thank you.

  3. Frightening numbers??? Every year, the feds approve a new batch of 100,000 TFWs to top up the supply. Add to that 250,000 other foreign workers (IMPs). Then there’s about 340,000 foreign students to consider. Then another 270,000 permanent immigrants including refugees. And a whole lot more applications to consider and reject. The ducks must be paddling rather furiously! Somehow with more than 1M considered and approved or re-approved or rejected, a few thousand extra border-crossers are a massive increase in work load?
    If we can learn something from history, shortly after the historically highest years of immigration ever, Canada finally grew a pair and started to throw of its colonial shackles. Now that Canada is its own country although that’s only been official for 3 decades, perhaps it’s understandable that we’re still a little iffy about being our own country.

    • Another way of viewing the situation:
      To use your figures; 1 million immigrants multiplied by $2,000 per month welfare payments is quite a lot of our tax payments.

      • Source please.

  4. These refugees, driven to flee a place they were duped to believe a safe harbour (watched by Lady Liberty and guarded by the self-professed ‘global policeman’), are the first trickle of a torrent to come. A torrent of, not the victims of the fanaticism they are accused (despite all evidence being contrary) of carrying but the victims of America’s homegrown religious extremists whose superstitious ignorance is stripping U.S. women
    of sovereignty over their own persons – of their naturally sovereign right to control their own bodily functions.
    The laws currently juggernauting through America’s congress – laws that give any fertilized egg the status of a full-fledged human person and makes a crime of any act that interferes with its implantation and growth – those laws can’t help but see an ‘underground railroad’ carrying desperate women north to the salvation of our clinics – and carrying IUDs and The Pill south. While that flood of desperation won’t see those millions of women seeking permanent residence it will stretch our health care system and bring out nastier ugliness in the American religious right for whom our thwarting of their oppressions with our sensible compassion will be felt as a slap on the sanctimonious cheek.

    This handful fleeing Levantine zealots are a drop in the bucket compared to the masses seeking rescue from the predations of American zealots.

  5. Folks we are in danger of disintegrating if we don’t see eye to eye on the reality of so called ‘multiculturalism’. Open your history books please, and study the British Empire. The bad and the good. Especially the good, that was written out of history by Marxist-Leninist ideologues and ignored. If the Marxist-Leninists in our ‘think tanks’ and ‘activist groups’ keep marginalizing people for being of European descent don’t be surprised when the far right starts marching in their millions and Roman Saluting. We can discuss this civilly and not call each other names, but you HAVE to read the histories, you have to keep going back and back and be reasonable and logical don’t give in to your goddamn emotions!

    • Multiculturalism is hypothetical.

      • Please look words up before you use them.

  6. Not sure when the ducks are paddling but it should be before the latest batch of immigrants / refugees begin, not after. People are startled by the new wave of arrivals for a good reason. The information we have been fed by the media has been slanted towards the lunatic fringe of some very mainstream religions. What do Canadians really know about the Muslim religion or Taoism or Buddhism? Probably not much. Once the ducks see a trend in the immigrant population, it would be a good idea to prepare Canadians for their arrival, not paddle like mad afterwards.

    • Not sure about the Ducks , but I do know Islam , and it’s not what you want in Canada !
      I really think you should do some research and then make your comments !

      • IF you knew Islam you’d know there are over a million Muslims in Canada

        We’ve had Muslims since Confederation.

        • How many Muslims were here at confederation?

  7. Canada’s real refugee problem is ignorant Cons.

  8. I don’t think being nasty to a chosen president of our neighbour is necessary !
    That is just bad manners !
    Our problem is accepting Illegals that were already Illegal in their chosen country (The U.S.)
    Why would we even consider Refugee status for people that will probably never get off Welfare !
    This is the real reason these people come to our country – Not to integrate or assimilate , but to have a better life than what they left .
    Our country is based on Judeo / Christian principles which are opposite to Islam . If you want proof, look at the cluster of Muslims in Toronto and Montreal ,and other cities !
    I am really tired of our benevolence to people that will always oppose our Laws and want to change our Culture – See Bill M-103 !
    Multiculturalism just doesn’t work !

    • Ho hum….more Con bilge

  9. These things do not come without a price tag and the average price tag for this particular type of refugee claim, in the very first year, averages $150,000.
    That should be known, and is a fact absent from all of your articles on the topic.
    You also gloss over the fact that almost everyone of these people has a pre-existing refugee claim awaiting finality in the US, and so, they fit the nation shopping definition supplied by the UN. Some have been denied refugee status in the US already, and that would be, denied under the Obama gov, nothing to do with Trump. Canada does not have an unlimited supply of money, homes and jobs for refugees. And our lower educated and young do not need undue competition for lower skilled jobs. Our hospitals do not need more patients. Only those who can not be excluded by sensible rules should be helped. Sensible rules are not being applied at this time.

  10. The Canada government’s biggest problem is overrating their abilities. They cannot solve the aboriginal problems perfectly, and they are still bringing more refugees and troubles into our land. They give the aboriginals shabby dwellings and provide them the worst jobs. And the government is trying to take more homeless people and provide them living requirements. The government really creates a big trouble for themselves.