Scheer vows to end ‘illegal’ border crossings as part of immigration policy plan

Conservative leader will close loophole in Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the U.S.

If elected prime minister, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says he would put an end to “illegal” border crossings in Canada.

Scheer included that as one of several general commitments outlined in a speech delivered in Toronto Tuesday outlining his vision for immigration in Canada — part of a series of policy announcements ahead of the fall federal election.

Speaking to a crowd of supporters at a conference centre, Scheer said he would close a loophole in the Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the United States that has allowed asylum-seekers who slip into the country by avoiding border checkpoints to make refugee claims that would be automatically rejected at official crossings.

“I will work to put an end to illegal border crossings at unofficial points of entry like Roxham Road,” he said, citing the busiest such crossing point where two rural roads in Quebec and New York practically touch. He added that he believes the loophole in the agreement allows these irregular migrants to “skip the line and avoid the queue.”

READ MORE: Sign warning against illegal border crossings erected at South Surrey Smuggler’s Inn property

Scheer told the crowd he believes Canadians have lost confidence in the fairness of the immigration system thanks to the influx of irregular migrants. Since the beginning of 2017, over 43,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Canada through unofficial entry points.

He placed the blame squarely on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, accusing him of undermining not only the integrity of the border but of causing a growing number of Canadians to believe that immigration levels should be reduced.

A number of polls over the last year have shown a growing concern among Canadians over the numbers of newcomers Canada accepts each year.

Scheer said he has heard these concerns most often voiced by new Canadians who have “played by the rules and arrived in Canada fair and square.”

“They are the most offended at Trudeau’s status quo, where some are able to jump queues, exploit loopholes and game the system.”

Scheer said he is confident he can restore Canadians’ trust in the immigration system with his own approach to immigration policy — changes that would include: improved language training, better recognition of work credentials and refocusing the government-sponsored refugee program on victims of atrocities.

He also pledged to work toward reuniting survivors of genocide who have already resettled in Canada, such as Yazidi women and girls, with their families and promised to promote more private sponsorships of refugees.

He further reiterated his intention to bring back the office of religious freedom, a unit in Global Affairs Canada that advocated for threatened religious minorities.

As for the numbers of newcomers admitted each year in Canada, Scheer acknowledged it is a controversial topic.

But he called the debate about immigration levels a ”red herring” because on either side, political ideology is put ahead of the economic and social realities in Canada: that as Baby Boomers retire, Canada will need skilled newcomers to fill labour gaps and secure economic growth.

That’s why Scheer said he would set Canada’s annual immigration levels “consistent with what is in Canada’s best interests.”

READ MORE: Scheer says it would take Conservatives five years to balance budget

“That number may change every year, and I’m not going to get into an ideological debate or, worse, an auction about immigration numbers,” Scheer said. “The number will reflect what Canada needs and, just as importantly, who needs Canada.”

Few details were attached to his commitments; Scheer said he would provide more details during the election campaign in the fall.

The Conservative leader also dedicated a good portion of his speech addressing accusations from the Liberals that Conservative concerns about the immigration system are rooted in racism.

“I find the notion that one’s race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation would make anyone in any way superior or inferior to anybody else absolutely repugnant. And if there’s anyone who disagrees with that, there’s the door,” he said.

Scheer took issue with being accused of racism, calling the issue personal to him. He shared a story about his mother, who spent time just before her death a few years ago volunteering to help Syrian refugees at her local church.

When she was in the hospital, he said, many of the refugees she had helped visited her to repay her kindness.

Conservatives should be free to question the Liberals’ management of the border without being called racists and bigots, Scheer said.

“To ascribe those motives to those who simply want stronger security screening procedures or less people entering the country illegally makes a mockery of such hateful forces.”

Scheer ended his speech by taking a phrase often used by Trudeau when talking about immigration and expanding upon it to reflect his own vision for Canada’s immigration system.

“Justin Trudeau says that diversity is our strength, but I think he’s missing the big picture. The reasons why waves and waves of immigrants from all corners of the world have come to Canada — it is because we are free,” Scheer said.

“Diversity is the proof of our strength. And our strength is and always has been our freedom.”

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Cranbrook fighter wins third consecutive national title

Tyson Hirscher’s third year of National Gold: A Coach’s Perspective

Interior Health CEO talks patient transfers, staffing challenges

Susan Brown takes questions on local, regional health care issues at a recent public meeting

Snowfall warning for Kootenay and Paulson passes

Up to 30 cm expected in mountain passes Saturday and Sunday.

Monkey Do’s Childcare talks expansion, government funding

The B.C. Government has been working to improve childcare in the province… Continue reading

Moose tests positive for Chronic Wasting Disease in northwest Montana

This is the first time the disease has been detected in the species in Montana

Cold, stormy winter forecast across much of Canada, The Weather Network predicts

In British Columbia temperatures will be slightly above normal and precipitation will be just below normal

UPDATED: Vancouver Island’s Joe gets suspended sentence in Teddy the dog cruelty case

Melissa Tooshley expected in court on Thursday in same case

Nineteen boats carrying invasive mussels stopped at B.C. borders

Waters of Columbia-Shuswap still test mussel-free

Woman ‘horrified’ after being told to trek 200 kilometres home from Kamloops hospital

‘I can’t get from Kamloops back to 100 Mile House injured, confused… no shoes, no clothes whatsoever’

Canadian universities encourage exchange students in Hong Kong to head home

UBC said 11 of its 32 students completing programs in Hong Kong have already left

Midget no more: Sweeping division name changes coming to minor hockey in Canada

Alpha-numeric division names will be used for the 2020-2021 season and beyond

Duncan man gets suspended sentence in Teddy the dog cruelty trial

Joe also gets lifetime ban on owning animals

B.C. pushes for greater industry ‘transparency’ in gasoline pricing

Legislation responds to fuel price gap of up to 13 cents

B.C. woman ordered to return dog to ex-boyfriend for $2,000

After the two broke up, documents state, they agree to share custody of the dog, named Harlen

Most Read