That’s how long it took for Canadian Prime Minister and liberal hero Justin Trudeau to realize his promise to welcome all immigrants and refugees to Canada may have been a little short-sighted. After the prime minister proudly proclaimed on Twitter back in January that Canada would welcome all those fleeing “persecution and war,” the prime minister changed his tone this week when he warned refugees crossing into Canada from the US that sneaking into the country illegally wouldn't fast-track the process of granting asylum.
To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) January 28, 2017
In the months that have passed since Trudeau made his famous promise, the number of refugees streaming over the border into the Canadian province of Quebec surged dramatically, straining local resources available to process their claims of asylum and provide necessities like food and shelter. The asylum seekers are primarily Haitians who fear that the Trump administration might revoke a special protected status implemented after the 2010 earthquake.
Here’s Trudeau, who was speaking at - of all places - a news conference before Montreal’s Pride parade:
"If I could directly speak to people seeking asylum, I'd like to remind them there's no advantage," Trudeau said at a news conference Sunday in Montreal.
"Our rules, our principles and our laws apply to everyone."
Trudeau also stressed that anyone seeking refugee status will have to go through Canada's "rigorous" screening process.
The surge of migrants has overwhelmed both the Canadian legal system and the capabilities of local agencies tasked with aiding refugees. We reported earlier this month that Canada sent soldiers to a popular crossing site in upstate New York to help build a small encampment for newly arriving refugees. But beads have quickly filled up. According to CBC News, more than 3,800 people walked over the border into the province during the first two weeks of August, compared to the 2,996 who crossed throughout all of July.
As CBC notes, Unlike in the United States, Haitians have no special status in Canada, and about half of Haitians seeking refugee status in Canada have already been denied during the past couple of years.
Trudeau critic Michelle Rempel said the Canadian government too willingly ignored the brewing refugee crisis on its doorstep, and continues to play down the need to deal with the problem.
“Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel said Trudeau is downplaying the urgent need to deal with the surge in people crossing the border.
"They knew it was going to be a problem this summer. And their response has been building tent cities on the U.S./Canada border," she said in an interview with CBC News."
Too help alleviate the problem, Rempel says the federal government should increase funding for the IRB, the board that evaluates all asylum claims. Even before the surge at the border, the IRB was hopelessly backlogged, ensuring that claimants could remain in the country in a legal limbo while they waited for their hearing.
Allowing the department to process claims more quickly would remove this incentive for asylum seekers to cross illegally.
Still, given his professed love for immigration and multiculturalism, we wonder just how far Trudeau will go to stanch the tide of refugees. Will there be more soldiers and more camps? Or will Trudeau hire an army of claims processers to start kicking people out of the country – or at least ensure that those allowed to remain deserve to do so?
One thing's for sure: He's going to need to do something.