OTTAWA – There has been a “pronounced” shift in where the RCMP are arresting people crossing illegally into Canada, new figures released Friday indicate.
The federal government data, including preliminary figures for June, show a drop in the number of people being apprehended in Manitoba, but a major increase in Quebec.
Nationally, the RCMP intercepted 884 people who crossed into Canada between regular ports of entry in June, up from 742 the month before, says the report posted on a government website.
Of that total, 781 were caught in Quebec, compared to 576 the previous month. In Manitoba on the other hand, 63 people were apprehended, down from 106 the month before.
“While the total number of irregular border crossers in June is in line with recent months, there has been a pronounced shift in the entry location; the reductions seen in Manitoba have been accompanied by increases in Quebec,” Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale’s office acknowledged in a statement.
The report listed 39 interceptions in British Columbia in June, just one in Alberta and none in New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and Ontario.
Many of those who cross illegally into Canada go on to file claims for refugee status. Indeed, asylum claims were up across the country last month.
The number of illegal crossings began to spike after President Donald Trump enacted a short-lived ban on travel to the United States in January by people from seven countries. That travel ban was shot down by U.S. courts, but not before causing chaos at airports and fears that asylum claimants in the United States would face deportation.
Advocates for refugee claimants have warned of a possible renewed increase in claims after the U.S. Supreme Court last month partially reinstated Trump’s revised ban on travellers from six mainly Muslim countries.
So far this year, 18,305 asylum claims have been processed by Canadian officials, including those turned over by the Mounties. That’s in contrast with the 23,895 claims dealt with in all of 2016, government figures show.
By comparison, historical data showed a peak of 25,315 claimants in 2011, with just 315 people apprehended by the RCMP after crossing into Canada away from regular border points that year. The overall number of asylum claims processed dropped to just 10,370 by 2013 before rising again in each subsequent year.
The small towns forced to deal with the irregular border crossers are growing frustrated by the problem and the inactions of the federal government to deal with it, said New Democrat MP Jenny Kwan, who visited Emerson, Man., Friday.
“It may not be in the headlines as much these days but border towns like Emerson are still receiving a wave of asylum seekers,” said Kwan.
“People here feel ignored by the government in Ottawa and the Liberals are refusing to deal with the root cause.”
A 57-year-old woman originally from Ghana was found dead near Emerson in late May. Officials said she died of hypothermia while crossing the border illegally in an attempt to visit her daughter in Toronto.