Trudeau says he will raise the Safe Third Countries Agreement during President Biden’s visit
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he plans to urge US President Joe Biden to renegotiate the Safe Third Countries Agreement when he visits Canada next month.
This agreement states that asylum seekers entering the United States or Canada must submit their applications in the first country they arrive in, as the two countries have similar immigration policies.
But the treaty does not cover unofficial points of entry. Since 2017, Canada has seen an influx of refugee applicants crossing the US border at unofficial entry points — including Roxham Road, some 50km south of Montreal.
Responding to recent political pressure, Trudeau said his administration is working to renegotiate the Safe Third Countries Agreement with the US. On Thursday, he vowed to address the issue himself during his visit with Biden.
“I can assure you that in my direct discussions with President Biden I have told him that this is a priority for us,” Trudeau said in French.
In an interview with CBC News Network Power & Politics On Wednesday, US Ambassador David Cohen refused to confirm that the United States was renegotiating the deal with Canada.
“You have never seen or heard anyone from the United States confirm that there are specific discussions about the Safe Third Countries Agreement, and I will not be the first United States official to make that statement,” he said Host David Cochrane.
Cohen also said changes to the Safe Third Countries Agreement would do “very little” to tackle irregular migration, adding that the two countries should focus on tackling root causes.
Trudeau has been urged by Quebec Premier François Legault and Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre to close Roxham Road to asylum seekers.
According to federal government statistics, more than 39,000 people applied for asylum in Quebec in 2022 after entering Canada outside of the official ports of entry, primarily via Roxham Road. Around 64 percent of all asylum applications in Canada in 2022 were made in Quebec.
It is against the law for a migrant to cross the border at any location other than an official port of entry. But once someone is in Canada, they can legally apply for asylum, which is a step toward refugee status.
In a letter published Tuesday in the Globe and Mail, Legault called on other provinces to help settle asylum seekers entering Canada via Quebec.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada says it has started transferring migrants arriving in Quebec to cities like Ottawa and Niagara Falls, Ontario. in July. The Atlantic Provinces have expressed their willingness to do more.
The four Atlantic Prime Ministers gathered on Monday for a meeting moderated by PEI’s Dennis King. Premier King said he had spoken to Federal Immigration Secretary Sean Fraser about a possible plan to take in asylum seekers.
“I think all of us — it’s part of our DNA as Canadians to be as welcoming as possible to people from around the world who come from difficult circumstances,” he said.
The other prime ministers agreed to speak to the federal government to see what can be done.
“We have been asked and we will certainly do what we can,” said Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston.
On Thursday, Trudeau pledged that the federal government would help financially if the Atlantic provinces agree to accept asylum seekers who have arrived in Quebec.
“We will also be there to work with and support the Atlantic provinces that want to help with this challenge,” he said.