Russell Wangersky: A quiet word
Hello. How are you today? Work getting you down? How’s that coffee?
Just this week, 19 asylum seekers crossed the border from the United States into Canada during a Prairie blizzard and -28 C windchill.
Only two were able to make it all the way to the nearest town, Emerson, Man. The other 17 waited out the storm, huddled together near a home just north of the community until daybreak.
While it’s not clear who organized the border crossing or who the would-be refugees are, their actions speak to the desperation that’s palpable in the wake of U.S. President Donald Trump’s hard-line travel ban and immigration policies.
Asylum-seekers and border crossings will be a central focus of today’s meetings between federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and his U.S. counterpart, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.
Goodale says the two countries must ensure a “common fact base” about who the migrants are, why they’re crossing the border and how the situation will evolve.
Coming to an understanding might be easier said than done, given the U.S. administration’s stance on facts, but one thing is certain — the situation is surely going to evolve.
The RCMP and Canada Border Services Agency have offered assurances that they have the resources needed to cope with the sudden flood flowing across the border.
Those resources won’t last long, though. The influx will only increase in the weeks and months ahead, barring a drastic shift in policy from the Trump administration.
Don’t hold your breath.
Trump’s executive order banning visitors to the U.S. from several predominantly Muslim countries has already been revised once after courts blocked the initial order. The possibility of the issue being taken off the table entirely seems distant, at best.
There is no question the U.S. immigration policies are spurring this wave of unrest, despite Canadian Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen’s belief that asylum-seekers in the U.S. will “continue to have fair access to hearings and due process.”
Hussen might not want to stir the political pot, but his claim likely rings hollow for those living in the situation right now.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has long taken the position that Canada is open to all immigrants to this country. That now must include those seeking to escape the turmoil that could await them south of the border.
This should mean our government devotes the necessary resources to police and border service agencies to ensure safety and security, both for asylum-seekers crossing the border and for Canadians.
It’s about human rights, and it’s part of the values we should strive for as Canadians.
We don’t need to look far beyond our borders to know the alternative isn’t working.