CanadaIllegal border crossings a 'crisis' – union head

Anthony Furey, Postmedia Network

, Last Updated: 10:54 PM ET

Illegal migrants crossing Canada’s borders are hopping off planes in New York and busing directly north, says the head of Canada’s border agents union.

“There is a trend right now,” said Jean-Pierre Fortin, national president of the Customs and Immigration Union. “People are leaving from different countries and flying into New York City and they’re taking a bus.”

The bus lets them off at the northern most part of their route in upstate New York, Fortin said. Then they take a cab right up to the border and walk over.

This contradicts the narrative that illegal migrants entering Canada are fleeing President Donald Trump’s policies. “The Americans are well aware of what’s taking place right now,” says Fortin. “They’re not making it harder for them.”

It also suggests Canada’s lax border policy is encouraging individuals to sidestep this country’s immigration laws.

“Right now the world is watching us,” Fortin said. “People are saying, ‘We didn’t know it was that easy to come across the border.’”

With the images and stories of migrants so easily crossing the border, this country is sending a message to people around the world about just how easy it is to sneak into Canada, he suggests. And Fortin said that’s why he is calling on the government to act.

“I can tell you that my members are calling me on a daily basis and it’s a crisis,” Fortin said on National Post Radio on SiriusXM Canada Wednesday. “The government and senior management are saying this is business as usual – it is not.”

He points out that in Hemmingford, the Quebec border town with a population of less than 1,000 residents, the number of illegal crossings has vastly increased this year. There were 744 crossing throughout all of 2014, but so far in the first two months alone of 2017 that number has already hit 650.

Fortin pointed out that the previous government eliminated over 1,000 border positions. “We’re asking the new government to overturn that decision and rehire these positions,” he says. “We’d also like to see the creation of a border patrol to make sure that between the 117 border crossings in Canada there is some level of surveillance so we can get control of our borders again.”

Border agents also want the government to take a look at the legislation that, in Fortin’s words, “encourages asylum seekers to come in illegally.” Right now, informed migrants know that they’ll be turned back if they present themselves at a formal crossing. But if they make their way over illegally, crossing in between official ports of entry, they can actually file a claim once on Canadian soil.

Manitoba premier Brian Pallister is demanding resources for his province from the federal government, which is facing an migrant influx at the town of Emerson.

On Friday, public safety minister Ralph Goodale met with U.S. Homeland Security secretary John Kelly in Ottawa to discuss the issue.


2014: 744

2015: 823

2016: 2,054

2017 (Jan/Feb only): 650