Quebec asking Ottawa to move new asylum seekers crossing Roxham to other provinces

The Quebec government is asking Ottawa that all asylum seekers crossing into Canada – from this point forward – via Roxham Road in Lacolle, Que., be moved to other provinces.

In a letter to Primer Minister Justin Trudeau from Quebec Premier François Legault – obtained by Radio-Canada – the CAQ government says Quebec has gone “way over its capacity to welcome asylum seekers” and that Quebec has “given more than its share of efforts over the last years.”

Legault is also asking Trudeau to make the flow of migrants across the Canada-U.S. border a priority during a meeting next month with U.S. President Joe Biden.

The letter states Quebec is proud of its long tradition of welcoming refugees but the current situation can no longer persist. Legault is calling for an urgent need to transfer all those crossing irregularly through Roxham Road to other provinces immediately without assessing their profile.


The premier adds this is a human rights issue as asylum seekers are having a harder time finding housing in Quebec, with some becoming homeless. He also says the organizations helping them are at their wit’s end.

In Legault’s letter, sent to Trudeau on Sunday, he also says it needs to be a top priority to rapidly conclude the negotiations of the Safe Third Country agreement with the U.S. so it applies to all points of entries in Canada.

The Safe Third Country Agreement requires asylum seekers arriving in Canada or the U.S. to claim refugee status in the first country they arrive in and forbids them from claiming refugee status in the other. However, migrants who cross the border between official posts can claim asylum after they are intercepted by police as they are already on Canadian soil.

“The closure of Roxham Road will happen one day whether we like or not, we’re talking about respecting the borders around Canadian territory, and as prime minister of this country it is your responsibility to ensure those borders are respected,” Legault wrote.

“Therefore, I am asking you to make this a priority subject during your upcoming meeting with the U.S. president, Mr. Biden.”

Last week, Trudeau told reporters he expects to have something to announce about the Safe Third Country Agreement renegotiations in the coming months.

“We will continue to be there to ensure that we have a system that works according to our values, with integrity, that treats newcomers and asylum seekers with respect and the necessary support. But we are moving forward in a way that is responsible,” he said in Ottawa.

‘Added pressure has become untenable’

Legault adds Quebec is feeling pressure on its social services, such as health care and education, like it has never seen before and “this added pressure has become untenable.”

He says for this reason Quebec is expecting all fees related to welcoming and integrating asylum seekers in 2021 and 2022 be fully reimbursed to the province by Ottawa.

The letter states 39,000 asylum seekers crossed into Quebec via Roxham Road in 2022, compared with 369 in the rest of the country, and the rate at which people are entering is growing.

Legault said he’s also worried that the arrival of tens of thousands of migrants — many of whom don’t speak French — will impede the province’s efforts to stop the decline of the use of French in Montreal.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has said that more than 5,550 migrants have been sent from Quebec to Ontario since the summer. And last week, Quebec’s immigration minister said that since Feb. 11 almost all new asylum seekers were being diverted to other provinces. Legault said he wants that to continue.

“We obviously welcome these efforts, but our concerns remain and it is essential that this new approach is maintained over time and that asylum seekers who enter in an irregular fashion are all sent to other provinces because Quebec has done more than its share of the work in recent years,” he wrote.

François-Philippe Champagne, Canada’s minister of innovation, science and industry, was asked about Legault’s letter at an event in Montreal Monday.

“I think there there’s three solutions,” said Champagne. “First is the safe third-party agreement that we need to push with our American partners. And obviously that’s something we are pursuing. The second one is we need to make sure that when people come here first, we receive them with dignity, but also that we look whether they could be in other provinces. Not only just in Quebec. And the third one, as you mentioned, is how can we expedite on a fast-track basis the emission of work permits, for those who would, on a prima facie basis would qualify for refugee status.

“(These) solutions that would certainly help in front of the situation we’re facing. But like I said, let’s make sure that we receive these people, some of them very vulnerable, with dignity. And if we are in solution mode with our provincial partners, and I would even say with businesses who may need workers at a time where we know that labour shortage is affecting many industries in the country.”

—With files from The Canadian Press

Top Stories

Top Stories