OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole is promising to speed up processing of family reunification and skilled workers' immigration applications without saying whether he would maintain the Liberal government's target of accepting about 400,000 new immigrants every year.
Speaking to reporters in Russell, Ont., O'Toole says an economic recovery from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic requires "rising immigration," but he didn't say how many immigrants a Conservative government would welcome to Canada.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau says his government had to suspend immigration completely last year because it had to close the borders due to the pandemic.
At a campaign stop in Richmond, B.C., Trudeau says he would increase the immigration targets if re-elected to make up for the time lost during the pandemic.
In a French video posted on his Twitter account Monday, O'Toole says that if elected, he would close the Roxham Road informal border crossing with the United States where thousands of asylum seekers have crossed to Quebec in the last few years.
O'Toole is promising in his platform to create a "joint border patrol" with the U.S. at and near high-traffic points on the border to stop asylum seekers from entering Canada.
Robert Falconer, a researcher at the University of Calgary School of Public Policy, says O'Toole's proposal won’t solve the issue because of the Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the U.S.
The agreement means that those arriving in Canada from the U.S. through a legal port of entry are not eligible to make asylum claims because they must seek refugee status in the first "safe country" they pass through.
The agreement does not apply to irregular border crossings, so Canada cannot deport refugee claimants the moment they step on Canadian soil before hearing their claim.
Falconer says if O'Toole wants to change that he would need to negotiate changes to the agreement with the U.S.
O'Toole says it's "unfair" that some are coming to Canada "in a way that's illegal" while others are applying through the immigration and refugee system.
Asylum seekers who cross the border through informal crossing points have legal protection under Canadian law to have their refugee claims heard by immigration authorities.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 14, 2021.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
The Canadian Press