Quebec Premier François Legault declared today that it is time for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to take action to secure Canada’s borders and close the illegal crossing at Roxham Road. “Roxham Road will have to be closed one day or another, whether we like it or not. The sooner the better,” Legault wrote in an opinion column published on February 21 in the Globe and Mail.
Legault stated that Trudeau’s “good intentions” in 2017 when he encouraged refugees to come to Canada have “turned into a real problem for Quebec and for Canada.” Legault further emphasized that one of Trudeau’s main duties is to ensure Canada’s borders are enforced and that the prime minister’s upcoming meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden should prioritize the topic.
Quebec has been advocating for months to have the federal government close Roxham Road, noting that the influx of refugees is straining the province’s housing, education, health, and social services systems. On Sunday, Legault wrote to Trudeau directly, stating that the influx of illegal migrants is putting the French language at risk in the province. He requested Trudeau rewrite the Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States, which he said is allowing the breach in the Canada-U.S. Border. The agreement requires border officials in both countries to stop asylum seekers at the border at official crossings. Legault hopes this policy will be put in place at unofficial crossings as well.
Legault noted that since Trudeau’s 2017 tweet, the number of asylum seekers entering Canada has “exploded,” particularly in Quebec. Last year, more than 39,000 illegal arrivals entered mainly via Roxham Road, and that does not include the roughly 20,000 other immigration arrivals to the province. In comparison, only 369 people claimed asylum in other provinces.
Legault said that Quebec has taken on a “completely disproportionate share of asylum seekers” and the influx cannot continue. He added that the situation has humanitarian considerations, noting that it is becoming increasingly difficult to receive asylum seekers with dignity. Legault called on the federal government to send all new asylum seekers to other provinces, as new arrivals struggle to find adequate housing and some end up homeless.
In response to Legault’s letter to Trudeau, the office of federal Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said on February 20 that Ottawa had transferred thousands of migrants to Ontario to take pressure off Quebec, adding that the government was working with other provinces and municipalities to find other temporary accommodations.