OTTAWA — Candidates for leadership of Canada’s opposition Conservative Party are calling for drastic measures to halt the flow of asylum seekers fleeing the United States into Canada, including deployment of the Canadian army to detain would-be refugees as they cross the border.
This get-tough approach reflects public opinion surveys that show a hardening of attitudes among some Canadians toward the asylum seekers and immigration in general, placing political pressure on the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Canadian news recently has been full of images of migrants trudging across snow-covered fields and through icy ditches, hauling small children and suitcases as they cross into Quebec, Manitoba and other provinces from U.S. border states. The phenomenon has gained momentum since Donald Trump was elected president in November.
Kevin O’Leary, a reality-TV celebrity and neophyte politician who has taken a Trumplike approach to his quest for the Conservative leadership, says illegal crossings are “unacceptable” and that Canada must beef up its border security to avert a flood of refugees. “I don’t want what’s happening in Europe to happen in Canada,” he said in a recent campaign video.
O’Leary, considered a leading contender in the May 27 leadership vote, seeks a new law to prevent asylum seekers from getting refugee hearings if they cross the border illegally. He admits that the measure would contravene Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms but wants to use a special constitutional clause to permit an override of those protections.
Another top leadership hopeful, Maxime Bernier, a member of Parliament from Quebec, would go even further. If more police and the border security agents fail to stop the flow of migrants, “I would look at additional temporary measures, including deploying Canadian forces in troubled border areas,” he said.
According to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the force intercepted 1,134 asylum seekers crossing the border outside regular ports of entry in January and February, with most of the crossings taking place in Quebec, British Columbia and Manitoba. The force said it does not have comparable figures for the same period in 2016. full story