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

Helping our community during COVID-19

A high school student’s perspective

The buoys are back in town

Watershed Wanderings column by Lake Windermere Ambassadors

Invermere council okay with ‘reverse grad march’ idea

Nothing finalized and complications aplenty, but Invermere council agrees to grad march idea

101-year-old man targets 101 block fundraising walk for food bank

A centenarian in Invermere has embarked on a new adventure to raise money for the food bank.

Wings Over the Rockies encourages nature viewing during pandemic

Three local photographers and Wings supporters offer nature viewing tips.

QUIZ: Test your knowledge of the world of summer sports

In a typical year, there are plenty of summer sporting events and tournaments held across Canada

‘We’re sick of it’: Anger over police killings shatters U.S.

Tens of thousands marched to protest the death of George Floyd

Join Kootenay family in virtual walk for Ronald McDonald House

“We always described it as our oasis in the middle of the desert,” Brigitte Ady shares.

Surrey mayor’s party under fire for ‘sickening’ tweet accusing northern B.C. RCMP of murder

Mayor Doug McCallum says tweet, Facebook post ‘sent out by unauthorized person’

Father’s Day Walk Run for prostate cancer will be virtual event this year throughout B.C.

The annual fundraiser for Prostate Cancer Foundation BC has brought in $2.5 million since 1999

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

Dr. Bonnie Henry announces official ban on overnight kids’ camps this summer

New ban comes after talking with other provincial health officials across the country, Henry says

Senior man in hospital after unprovoked wolf attack near Prince Rupert

Conservation officers are on site looking for the wolf

VIDEO: NASA astronauts blast off into space on SpaceX rocket

Marks NASA’s first human spaceflight launched from U.S. soil in nearly a decade

Most Read