With condemnation streaming in from all sides, U.S. President Donald Trump and his administration continue to staunchly defended their new “zero-tolerance” border policy.
Critics of the policy, from current and former first ladies to the U.N. to Canadian politicians, have decried the way it separates parents and small children at the border, with children being housed in shelters with strangers while their parents await sentencing in separate facilities.
Amidst pressure to respond, PM Justin Trudeau released a statement on Wednesday condemning the Trump administration.
“What is happening in the United States is unacceptable. I cannot imagine what these families are going through. Obviously this is not the way we do things in Canada,” Trudeau told reporters.
The Prime Minister had previously said he didn’t want to play politics in the U.S. scenario, but public outrage has reached a bubbling point.
So far, the U.S. government has separated 1,995 undocumented children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border between April 19 and May 31, officials confirm. The practice has been labelled traumatizing, cruel and immoral.
But Trump says it’s necessary for the security and stability of America, and that the separations are the result of a law enacted before he came into office.
“The United States will not be a migrant camp and it will not be a refugee holding facility — it won’t be,” he said at the White House on June 18.
Trump has argued existing law requires border security to separate minors from their guardians when they cross into America legally, but that’s not true, the New York Times reports.
While the “zero-tolerance” policy of detaining, prosecuting and deporting illegal immigrants has been around since the Bush administration, New York Magazine reports both George W. Bush and Barack Obama were opposed to separating children from their parents, and avoided doing so.
Still, Trump denies that separating families was the objective of his administration’s policy, saying instead that it is an unfortunate outcome of the “zero-tolerance” policy they believe is a necessary tool for protecting America’s borders.
Response in Canada
Speaking to CBC, immigration lawyer Arghavan Gerami said detention is always the last resort in Canada, and that decisions are made in the best interest of the child. Separation of parent and child is a policy, she said, that would never stand here.
If the most vocal Canadian opponents of the practice reflect the sentiments of Canadians in general, she could be right.
The Toronto Star published an editorial cartoon by Theo Moudakis on June 19 that satirizes the sequel to the popular musical Come From Away with a poster showing border patrol officers separating a mother and child.
— Yvonne O'Reilly CRSP (@YvonneOHS) June 19, 2018
Vancouver-based journalist Travis Lupick shared an article highlighting the harm caused by separating children from their parents.
'What separation from parents does to children' https://t.co/4RA2Ebqfs2 "Their heart rate goes up. Their body releases a flood of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. Those stress hormones can start killing off dendrites….wreaking dramatic and long-term damage…"
— Travis Lupick (@tlupick) June 19, 2018
NDP MPs Don Davies and Jenny Kwan have both called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to publicly denounce the Trump administration’s separation tactics and cancel the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement.
Under the agreement, refugee claimants seeking entry to Canada from the U.S. must request refugee protection in the U.S. before making claims in Canada.
Trump’s US is separating children from their parents as punishment for seeking refugee status & refusing to acknowledge those fleeing domestic & gang violence as refugees. UN calls this cruel & unusual. NDP asks Trudeau to now admit the US is not a safe 3rd country – he refuses.
— Don Davies MP (@DonDavies) June 18, 2018
Despite pressure to publicly condemn the practice, Justin Trudeau has said he won’t get involved.
“What we will not do is play politics with this,” Trudeau said during question period on June 18.
Meanwhile, Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu has made the controversial prediction that if Canada legalizes cannabis, it will open the door to “people coming in from Mexico” to “take over Canada’s drug trade.
What do you think? Should Canada consider adopting harsher border policies? Let us know by responding to the poll above or have your say in the comments below.