The Canadian Press, May 28, 2019
If elected prime minister, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says he would put an end to “illegal” border crossings in Canada.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.