(Quebec) A few days after losing his fight against Ottawa to obtain a substantial increase in health transfers, François Legault relaunches Justin Trudeau by tackling the issue of Roxham Road head-on this time. He asks the federal government to transfer now and for the future all asylum seekers who present themselves at this irregular checkpoint to other provinces, including those who speak French.
In an official letter sent to the Prime Minister of Canada on Sunday, Mr Legault once again affirmed that the reception capacity of Quebec is, in his opinion, “largely exceeded”. At the same time, 39,000 irregular passages were recorded in 2022 by Roxham Road. , located in the Montérégie region across from the Canada-US border.
“Quebec has supported a completely disproportionate share of asylum seekers in Canada,” lamented once again the Premier of Quebec. It requires the federal government to reimburse the province “all the costs related to the reception and integration of asylum seekers for the years 2021 and 2022”, amounting to several hundred million dollars, he said.
The Premier of Quebec also welcomed the recent transfers of asylum seekers from Roxham Road to Ontario, representing 93% of those who have entered since February 14.
“It is essential that this new approach be maintained over time and that asylum seekers who enter irregularly should henceforth all be redirected to other provinces, because Quebec has provided more than its share of effort over the past years,” said François Legault.
“It is becoming more and more difficult to receive asylum seekers with dignity. The latter struggle to find adequate housing and are more likely to find themselves in a situation of homelessness. Also, the community organizations that provide them with direct support are at their wit’s end, and Quebec’s public services are also having to deal with unprecedented increased pressures,” he said.
“I ask you to take, urgently and permanently, all the necessary measures to distribute asylum seekers, as soon as they arrive at the border, to other provinces, regardless of the applicant’s profile”, added the prime minister.
We must “close” Roxham Road, says Legault
Mr Legault also pointed out to Justin Trudeau that the massive reception of asylum seekers in Montreal poses problems in terms of francization, while the Quebec government is stepping up its efforts in the face of the decline of French in the province.
“Roxham Road will have to be closed one day, whether we like it or not. This is not just one issue among others. We are talking here about respecting Canada’s territorial borders, and it seems to me that it is your primary responsibility, as Prime Minister of this country, to ensure that these borders are respected,” he wrote in his letter to Justin Trudeau.
A few weeks before a highly anticipated visit by US President Joe Biden to Canadian soil, the Premier of Quebec reiterated that he would like the Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the United States to apply to Canada—the whole border. Under the current arrangement, refugee claimants must seek protection in the first country they enter, either Canada or the United States. Only official crossing points are subject to this Agreement. Those said to be irregular, such as Roxham Road, are not.
However, the idea of applying the Agreement to the entire border is criticized by specialists in immigration and international law. Some believe that this solution would accentuate the clandestinity of certain passages.
“The solution of closing Roxham Road or expanding the Safe Third Country Agreement makes no sense. It won’t solve anything at all. Migrants go elsewhere. All it does is send those people back into deeper hiding. It strengthens the criminal networks that exploit them and it allows people who promise to get them across the border to turn it into a system of human trafficking,” said Monday in The Press, the professor of public international law at McGill University, François Crépeau.
Earlier this month, François Legault also met in Quebec with the United States Ambassador to Canada, David Louis Cohen, to tell him “the urgency of amending the Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the United States to include entry points like Roxham”.