Categories: AnalysisEditorialOpinion

LINDSAY: How to End the Canadian Border Crisis

From January 2017 to October 2018, 37,713 asylum seekers illegally crossed the U.S. border into Canada. Although these individuals have all broken the law, they will not be prosecuted.

The Government of Canada website states, “no enforcement actions are taken against people seeking asylum as per section 133 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.” In most cases, asylum seekers are permitted to stay in Canada until their claim is heard.

What’s more, they are eligible for many financial benefits including health care, social assistance, housing, and education for their children.

The message to refugees around the world is loud and clear: If you illegally cross the border into Canada, you won’t be charged with a crime, you won’t be deported if you are eligible to make a refugee claim, and the government will take care of your financial needs. These government policies encourage people to illegally cross the border and request asylum.

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In January 2017, Justin Trudeau encouraged refugees to come to Canada when he tweeted, “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you…” Trudeau’s tweet (which went viral) undoubtedly increased the number of illegal border crossings.

Most asylum seekers from the United States would be foolish to follow the legal process to make a refugee claim in Canada. Under the Safe Third Country Agreement, persons requesting asylum “must make a claim in the first country they arrive in… unless they qualify for an exception.” As CBC News has reported, “most people who make an asylum claim at the border are turned back to the United States.”

The Safe Third Country Agreement is only in effect in places where it is legal to enter Canada (i.e., ports of entry, and by train or at airports). Knowing this, asylum seekers make an illegal border crossing instead.

This giant loophole in the Safe Third Country Agreement is what has ultimately caused the Canadian border crisis. The loophole needs to be closed.

The Conservative Party has proposed that the entire Canada–U.S. border be designated as an official port of entry. If this change were made, then most asylum seekers from the United States would be sent back.

If the U.S. refuses to take them because their asylum claim was rejected, then they could be deported. When an asylum claim is rejected, it has been determined that it is safe for the individual to return to their home country. They can also be deported if they are considered a security threat.

Another solution is to renegotiate the Safe Third Country Agreement and make illegal border crossers ineligible to apply for asylum in both countries.

The easiest solution would be for Parliament to simply pass legislation to close the loophole.

Canada does have a legal obligation to protect refugees. According to Article 33 of the 1951 Convention, “a refugee should not be returned to a country where he or she faces serious threats to his or her life or freedom.”

However, the Convention does not apply to asylum seekers who arrive from the United States because the Government of Canada has declared the U.S. “a safe third country.” Sending an illegal border crosser back to the United States does not put their life in any danger.

The Trudeau government can end the Canadian border crisis. By not allowing anyone who illegally crosses the border from the United States to make an asylum claim, the number of illegal border crossings will drop significantly. It is simple and easy to fix. All it takes is the political will to do it.


  • "The root of the matter is a gaping loophole in the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement, which does not allow people arriving from the United States to claim protection at an official Canadian port of entry. They can, however, claim protection once they’re already on Canadian soil. That’s the incentive for entering illegally." Margaret Wente, The Globe and Mail

    • The gaping loophole I believe only relates to the fact that this agreement forces asylum seekers to enter illegally because they cannot claim protection if they at an official Canadian port of entry.

      I wonder if this "loophole" is actually a feature and not a bug because it makes it easier to deport individuals who are not approved as asylum seekers because they have entered into Canada illegally to begin with.

  • Yeah, it's simple, we just have to walk away from the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. I don't think the Conservatives have made taking this action a part of their platform. Therefore, before your solution can be implemented, the Conservatives would have to win an election, and take the necessary action. You should email the Federal Conservatives and see what their position is in regards to this Treaty.

    Signed 28 July 1951
    Location Geneva, Switzerland
    Effective 22 April 1954
    Signatories 144
    1951 Refugee Convention at Wikisource
    The Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, also known as the 1951 Refugee Convention, is a United Nations multilateral treaty that defines who is a refugee, and sets out the rights of individuals who are granted asylum and the responsibilities of nations that grant asylum. The Convention also sets out which people do not qualify as refugees, such as war criminals. The Convention also provides for some visa-free travel for holders of travel documents issued under the convention. Although the Refugee Convention was agreed in Geneva, it is considered incorrect to refer to it as "the Geneva Convention" because that term is more widely understood as referring to any of four treaties regulating armed conflict.

    The Refugee Convention builds on Article 14 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which recognizes the right of persons to seek asylum from persecution in other countries. A refugee may enjoy rights and benefits in a state in addition to those provided for in the Convention.

    • Sukh Hayre,
      Your opening statement isn't true:
      "Yeah, it’s simple, we just have to walk away from the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees"

      If that statement were true, then Canada would be violating the 1951 Convention by turning away refugees from the United States at a legal port of entry.

      If you are interested, read articles 31-33 of the 1951 Convention:

      • What if they choose to not tell Canadian officials which country they are originally from?

        What if no country will take them back?

        What should Canada do then?

        If Canada at least plays by the rules as they relate to asylum claims, they have recourse through the treaty to return these individuals to their home country.

    • According to this treaty, an asylum seeker is allowed to seek asylum in a country other than the one in which he or she first sought refugee status.

  • What is the problem with the people in power? No human being takes the land/border or what ever status they have to the grave. Our ancestors were forced into ships without border control and were never returned so we decided to come visit them in This part of the world. So what's wrong. Let have a rethink.

  • I was not aware of this. It seems Canada is assuming a burden that should rightly fall to the United States.

    • Thanks, Anna. In my view, if someone has already applied for asylum in the United States, they shouldn't be able to cross the border illegally and apply for asylum in Canada.

  • I didn't realize Canada had this problem. The US and Canada should protect legitimate asylum seekers. But it's hard to figure that out. Political will. We need that in the US too.

    • Thanks, Nancy. It's true. Not all who request asylum are real refugees fleeing persecution. Some are migrants who want to escape poverty.

Published by
Christopher Lindsay
Tags: Asylum Seekers

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