Am I in Canada?
January 10, 2017 5:34 PM   Subscribe

Asylum seekers are risking their lives to make their way into Canada on foot to exploit a loophole in the US-Canada Safe Third Country agreement. Immigration experts expect the number of individuals attempting this journey will only increase under the incoming US administration.
posted by bkpiano (45 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
Is the president-elect enough reason to be allowed to seek asylum in Canada...?
posted by Windopaene at 5:57 PM on January 10 [5 favorites]


We're gonna build a wall.

to keep people in
posted by indubitable at 6:00 PM on January 10 [4 favorites]


Welcome, eh?

Hospital's over there, there's a Tim Hortons in the lobby.

Warm enough? I've got spare mittens. Don't be put off by the googly eyes on the mittens. Canada goes easy on weirdos, so nobody'll say a word.

This? This is called poutine. Open wide. It soothes what ails you.
posted by Construction Concern at 6:02 PM on January 10 [43 favorites]


I read "are risking their lives" and imagined being shot at by armed guards. Of course I'm from the U.S. Canadians are worried about frostbite.
posted by fast ein Maedchen at 6:04 PM on January 10 [19 favorites]


Is the president-elect enough reason to seek asylum in Canada...?

If a Somali gets denied on their US asylum claim then they're likely to be deported. If they try to cross at the regular border post they'll get turned back to the US and subsequently deported.

Clandestinely crossing into Manitoba means you pretend you arrived in Canada by magic as the first stop, apply for asylum, and give it another shot.

One would assume that more Somalis are going to have their asylum claims denied under anti-refugee, anti-Muslim Herr Trump. This will mean more will try to cross over by land on the unpatrolled parts of Manitoba. They're not trying to get away from Trump. They're just trying to get in anywhere that will take them.
posted by Talez at 6:05 PM on January 10 [20 favorites]


There are unpatrolled areas of Manitoba? Asking for a friend.
posted by toastedbeagle at 6:12 PM on January 10 [11 favorites]


"The Agreement does not apply to U.S. citizens or habitual residents of the U.S. who are not citizens of any country (“stateless persons”)."

That said, there have been some notable cases where US citizen asylum claims were granted (30 year jail sentence for sex with 16-year-old), as well as denied (Racism).
posted by Freelance Demiurge at 6:14 PM on January 10 [4 favorites]


We can't let the language of "asylum seekers" enter the Canadian discourse: they are refugees, just like any of the others we have sponsored and welcomed.
posted by jb at 6:29 PM on January 10 [39 favorites]


Of course I'm from the U.S. Canadians are worried about frostbite.

Only for like 4 months of the year, even in the prairies.

I wonder if this is connected with the big Somali population in Minnesota, if people fly over to meet friends of family there but decide they'd have a better chance of getting asylum in Canada (or simply don't want to deal with whatever comes with Trump).

One would assume that more Somalis are going to have their asylum claims denied under anti-refugee, anti-Muslim Herr Trump

Or they have marginal claims. It's not trivial to prove that you have a case as a refugee and according to this only 56% of applicants were admitted to Canada in 2015. Apparently only 57% of Somali refugees are accepted by the IRB. So it's certainly not a guaranteed entry to Canada either.

There are unpatrolled areas of Manitoba? Asking for a friend.

North of Lake Winnipeg? Pretty much all of it.

South of Lake Winnipeg? It's patrolled twice a year by combines and seed planters.
posted by GuyZero at 7:07 PM on January 10 [13 favorites]


And people are pretty down on the US immigration system (myself included) but the US accepted just under 9,000 Somali refugees in 2015 and Canada admitted about 170 according to that CBC page I linked above, so, you know, the US doesn't really look so bad here.
posted by GuyZero at 7:15 PM on January 10 [12 favorites]


And our new Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship is Ahmed Hussen, who arrived in Canada on his own at the age of 16 ... as a Somali refugee.
posted by maudlin at 7:21 PM on January 10 [31 favorites]


Actually, GuyZero, the US and Canada simply do not share a commitment to refugee protection, culturally or bureaucratically. The policies and on-the-ground practices for who "gets in" differ widely, as do outcomes in refugee cases. For example, gender and sexual-orientation protections have long been stronger in asylum cases in Canada than in the US. For example, in the US, the first asylum case based on domestic-violence impunity as a form of gendered claim for asylum was only won in, iirc, 2014.

So I think the language of the "loophole" in the OP is deeply problematic, as a migration scholar and expert. That people are skirting a messed-up law is just what people do, without the judge-y language. There are far more global routes to the US than to Canada, and people have every right on the planet to flee from violence, insecurity, war, and persecution.

Finally, the Safe Third Country Agreement has no bearing on the integrity/quality of asylum claims. It was implemented by the Harper government to diminish the quantity of asylum claims in Canada, especially after the media-frenzy boat arrivals of 1999/2000. The Canadian Council on Refugees used to have a number of excellent resources online, for those who want to learn more. (I can't search everything out right this second, apologies.)
posted by migrantology at 7:23 PM on January 10 [19 favorites]


Trudeau's first round of cabinet appointments made me cry and now Ahmed Hussen is doing it again.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:00 PM on January 10 [2 favorites]


My family lives in the south-east of Quebec right by the border, and security there has been beefed up a lot in the past years. There is a small town (Stanstead) that has the border going right through it, it even goes through a library. There is one street where the houses on one side are in Canada, and on the other side they're in the USA. It used to be that there was some mingling there, because they are all supposed to be the same community. But that all changed in the 2000s. They even had to replace the border guards because the ones that were there before were too friendly/familiar with the local population. You no longer could just cross the street to borrow something from your neighbour, they have cameras watching. You can't cross on foot because they have detectors under ground and probably have cameras watching the whole border there too. It's just farmland around and yet if you cross on foot in the middle of nowhere, you WILL have people show up out of thin air in helicopters or cars or boat or whatever. Even on the lake, don't put your boat too far into the middle because the coast guard is waiting there too. It is kind of surreal really, like two communities in the same area but kind of living separate, kind of ignoring that the other place exists.

So anyways, don't cross the border on foot in southeastern Quebec :P
posted by Hazelsmrf at 8:32 PM on January 10 [14 favorites]


Yeah, just cross over on the St. Lawrence River between NY and Ontario, through the Thousand Islands in a small boat on a hot summer weekend at mid day. No problem, eh.

Been traditional to run the border here since long before prohibition... Tories fleeing New England going North, Francophones fleeing HM's ass hats heading South... Heck, Southerners absconding with part of the CSA's gold reserves and bugging out for England were thought to be passing through the area after Apomatox. Some getting chased down, caught, tortured and murdered by other Southrons for that gold too, according to local stories.
posted by bert2368 at 9:09 PM on January 10 [4 favorites]


I once visited Kenora just over the Manitoba border in Ontario- it's beautiful country and lots of lakes and islands. It wouldn't be easy to patrol!
posted by freethefeet at 9:23 PM on January 10


Of course I'm from the U.S. Canadians are worried about frostbite. point taken, but also we do worry about frostbite, and one of these poor fellows who crossed a few days ago lost all his fingers on one hand.

My favourite part of the story was that people heard he and his fellow travellers arrived from their home of origin and came to the hospital to greet him and help him call his mom to say he was safe and where he was. Imagine.
posted by chapps at 9:28 PM on January 10 [5 favorites]


Of course I'm from the U.S. Canadians are worried about frostbite.

Yeah, as chapps said at least one of the refugees may lose fingers, toes. There apparently was also an infant with the group, too.

That said, Canada Border Services staff are not cute and cuddly. They are (understandably) assholes. CAS also sponsored a long-running television show that hunted down and stigmatized "illegals." Not great.
posted by My Dad at 9:53 PM on January 10 [5 favorites]


That that border security "reality show" was shut down, thank goodness, after a human rights complaint.
posted by chapps at 11:18 PM on January 10 [4 favorites]


There are unpatrolled areas of Manitoba? Asking for a friend.

So my Norwegian grandfather grew up outside Inwood, MB. Met my grandma outside Rolla, ND.

I was surprised that there are patrolled areas of Manitoba. I recall driving from one of my grand-aunt's farms in NoDak all the way to the old homestead outside of Inwood and it was fields everywhere.

Yeah, it's dangerous. It's easy enough to get lost when the weather is good – everything's flat, the only landmarks are huge fields.
posted by fraula at 1:36 AM on January 11


We can't let the language of "asylum seekers" enter the Canadian discourse: they are refugees, just like any of the others we have sponsored and welcomed.

What's wrong with "asylum seeker"? Asylum and Refuge both mean a place where you seek shelter from something bad. Does asylum seeker have a negative connotation in Canada?
posted by atrazine at 2:42 AM on January 11 [4 favorites]


In my Great Granfather's day crossing back and forth for political reasons was common.. it remained common right through the Vietnam war. A person who went to my high-school and his girlfriend fled to Canada. I was not at the send-off for one such young man but a relative was.
The custom then was to distribute military insignia, patches etc. among friends of the departing young man. and to burn other stuff in a bonfire. I was given a shoulder patch. I had that patch for years. I can't even remember the guy's name. I remember the girlfriend's name.
Anyone who ever went hunting knew how to cross safely. The place where I went to high school had a terrible number of young men die in Vietnam. This guy had come home on leave, and decided he had no wish to go back.
As far as I know, he and his girlfriend made it safely over. He was not heard from again. At least his name wasn't on one of those brass plaques in the special display window by the athletic trophy case.
I'm wondering how many Americans may need to make this trip?
I feel for those Somalis. It's a different thing trying to survive such a cold crossing.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 4:01 AM on January 11 [4 favorites]


Trudeau's first round of cabinet appointments made me cry

Trudeau's selling out of First Nations communities in order to reward energy producers makes me cry. But he sure is a handsome devil eh?
posted by spitbull at 4:37 AM on January 11 [5 favorites]


I once visited Kenora just over the Manitoba border in Ontario- it's beautiful country and lots of lakes and islands. It wouldn't be easy to patrol!

The landscape that these refugees are traversing is drastically different from the landscape around Kenora. Here's what the area around Kenora looks like; as you note, it's a rugged area known as the Canadian Shield.

Here's the landscape around Emerson, where the refugees have been crossing. There's not nearly so much in the way of obstacles, except for bitter cold this time of year.
posted by Johnny Assay at 5:14 AM on January 11 [1 favorite]


What's wrong with "asylum seeker"? Asylum and Refuge both mean a place where you seek shelter from something bad. Does asylum seeker have a negative connotation in Canada?

You're right that the words are very similar. But "asylum seeker" has been used heavily to discredit refugees - with an emphasis on "seeker" and the implication that they aren't really refugees. It has been used heavily in the UK anti-refugee press; I hadn't heard it in the Canadian context before.

I know this seems like a fine or even arbitrary distinction, but it's about how it's used, like the difference between "people of colour" and "coloured people".

Also, different words mean different things in different countries: in Canada, "refugee" is a good word, meaning someone who, through no fault of their own, needs a new home and is to be welcomed. But I noticed during Katrina that people didn't want to refer to the people as "refugees", saying that was insulting - instead, they wanted to use "displaced person" (which shocked my British SO, as DP has bad connotations there).
posted by jb at 5:32 AM on January 11 [2 favorites]


In my Great Granfather's day crossing back and forth for political reasons was common

When was your great grandfather's day? What political reasons were pressing at the time? How was it back and forth? Genuinely curious.
posted by IndigoJones at 6:18 AM on January 11


It's -36 with the wind chill in Winnipeg today. Please dress appropriately while sneaking over to my place.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 6:57 AM on January 11 [6 favorites]


You're right that the words are very similar. But "asylum seeker" has been used heavily to discredit refugees - with an emphasis on "seeker" and the implication that they aren't really refugees. It has been used heavily in the UK anti-refugee press; I hadn't heard it in the Canadian context before.

That is some food for thought. Here in Canada it's more common to use the words "refugee claimants" here, but we use the term "asylum seeker" as well. I haven't seen it used to discredit refugees, but as a neutral term to clarify what we're talking about when we talk about refugees- Government-assisted refugees, privately-sponsored, refugee claimants etc...To my mind it simply describes that they have entered into the legal refugee determination process.

So it doesn't alarm me...yet. It's interesting to hear about the UK context, and I agree that we have to be vigilant about how language is used. In a story like this it may need to be clarified that we're talking about asylum seekers or refugee claimants, but in other contexts I agree it would be better to refer to them as refugees, or newcomers, or preferable, no label necessary at all.
posted by beau jackson at 7:03 AM on January 11 [2 favorites]


I want more immigrants -- the regular kind, refugees, I don't care -- to come to my country, and I have selfish reasons. I joke about them fixing the *food* if nothing else, as Canada's cuisine was dreadfully British well into the sixties.

But the main things about Canada an immigration are 1) It's awfully damned empty here, and helping to fill the place looks like a plus to me and 2) We struggle to distinguish ourselves from the US. With Trump and his ilk south of the border (and awful things like the Stanstead security theatre mentioned above) I particularly want another thing that distinguishes us from that, and opening our doors as widely as possible would be a good one.

Please, come. Make it easier for me to be proud of my country.
posted by Quindar Beep at 7:47 AM on January 11 [7 favorites]


Trudeau's selling out of First Nations communities in order to reward energy producers makes me cry. But he sure is a handsome devil eh?

I've been personally moved by reading the personal histories of many of the people in his cabinet. But by all means, lets assume that means I support him unconditionally because he has nice hair.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:55 AM on January 11 [11 favorites]


Sorry jacquilynne, wasn't aimed at you in particular but at his shallow Facebook-level celebrity, including among many of my comrades. I apologize for implying otherwise.

Look closer at that cabinet though. A whole lot of window dressing on business as usual.
posted by spitbull at 7:57 AM on January 11


And to add I'm a little irrational on the subject. The Indigenous activist community is really, really , really angry at Trudeau right now, it's rubbed off on me.
posted by spitbull at 8:03 AM on January 11 [2 favorites]


I get that. The civil liberties and electoral reform activist communities aren't all that delighted with him, either. He's nowhere near as heinous as Harper, but at least with Harper, you knew what you were getting.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:05 AM on January 11 [3 favorites]


I don't know why anyone would want to try this. They just jail you up there and send you back. If you WERE going to risk immigrating illegally to go up there, go for the poutine at least.
posted by pizzakats708 at 8:09 AM on January 11


Window dressing or not, Trudeau is damn sight more approachable, diplomatic, and actually has POC in his cabinet. I can't vote (yet) and my husband is an NPD supporter all the way, but after years of Harper and the horror show of my home country, I am glad he's the PM.

He's coming to Kingston tomorrow and I am going to the meet & greet at City Hall. The questions I want to ask him, I assure you have nothing to do with his hair.
posted by Kitteh at 8:21 AM on January 11 [2 favorites]


Ask Trudeau about China and human rights, particularly human rights in Canada.
posted by My Dad at 9:06 AM on January 11


I want more immigrants -- the regular kind, refugees, I don't care -- to come to my country, and I have selfish reasons. I joke about them fixing the *food* if nothing else, as Canada's cuisine was dreadfully British well into the sixties...I particularly want another thing that distinguishes us from that, and opening our doors as widely as possible would be a good one.

Which raises the question, how wide is possible? This is not an idle question. Canada has 35,000,000 people, most of them on the relatively warm border. Asia, Africa, and South America have an estimated 6,731,000,000. One percent of that latter number would triple Canada's population (coincidentally, a goal of some money men, which should put you on guard.) Two percent would put you at 182,000,000. I imagine more would be happy to follow. Is it possible? Who decides? On what basis?

It's a contentious issue, and I have no answers. Conservatives in my country have put their cards on the table. Like it or not, it behooves progressives to discuss their concerns with real numbers. Failure to do so - well, use your imagination.
posted by IndigoJones at 10:46 AM on January 11


The Canadian government's quota for 2017 is apparently 300,000 immigrants which seems fine to me. I think it would be problematic to accept a lot more than that but at the same time Canada's birth rate of 1.6 children per woman isn't a sustaining rate, so we need to have people come. Debates about immigration are largely incremental in Canada - should we take 260K? 300K? 350K? But I outside of the unhinged extreme conservatives I don't think immigration is really fundamentally questioned. There are a lot of minority cultural groups that hold onto their immigrant heritage in Canada, even ones that aren't all that recent like Ukrainian-Canadians (a group that goes back to the inital settlement of western Canada) or German-Canadian, which although largely assimilated, continue to have enclaves in places like Waterloo and out west. And to say nothing of the long history of Chinese-Canadian immigration and the huge upswing in South Asian-Canadian immigration over the last several decades. Once you add it all up there aren't that many Canadians who don't have immigration as part of their family history in the last few generations.

Which isn't to say there are no problems, it's just unlikely for there ever to be a really pervasive "no more immigrants" sentiment in Canada.

I imagine more would be happy to follow.

Well, maybe. Certainly Canada has a lot more opportunity than a lot of places but a lot of people from asian, south america and africa might find the climate challenging.

Who decides? On what basis?

The current system has its issues but is fundamentally sound - we want skilled immigrants and we're willing to take in refugees who face persecution in their own countries. Canada needs to figure out how to deal with the demand for low-skill jobs in a better way than the current problematic TFW system. Canada needs to balance the freedom of immigrants to do what they want with the reality that they all tend to settle in big cities - Canada is more than Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver which currently take about 70% of new Canadians.

Canada's point system is, IMO, more rational that the US's practically non-existent system of skilled immigration. The breakdown of Canadian immigration statistics for 2014. Familes are reunited, we bring in skilled workers (who don't always actually get to work unfortunately - the phrase "Canadian experience" is more loaded than it seems) and we take in refugees at a rate proportional to our overall population.

I think if anything the article in the OP reflects more about Canada's continual anxiety with comparing itself to the US. Even if a few hundred more refugees show up out west on foot it's not really a significant change to either the refugee system or to immigration in general. What it is is refugees showing up on foot over a southern land border which is apparently the most terrible issue the US has ever faced and whenever something vaguely American happens in Canada, wow, hey, this is definitely news, wow, look everyone, we're just like the US!
posted by GuyZero at 11:27 AM on January 11 [7 favorites]


There are unpatrolled areas of Manitoba? Asking for a friend.

I work here and live nearby. Since 2009 the US has apparently patrolled the border with drones. Which isn't to say that the border isn't porous if you're walking. But there is a chance you'll be noticed (I assume those things will fly in winter), and then I would guess that the US border people would tell the RCMP, and they'll be looking for you. That said, there is only a deep-ish ditch that separates us, and in a winter like this one (with lots of snow) that ditch will be quite full of snow.
posted by kneecapped at 12:19 PM on January 11


but a lot of people from asian, south america and africa might find the climate challenging.

Huh? Are you aware of the demographics of Toronto? Or Fort Mac? Hint: they are not "white" towns. Kind of a weird thing to say, really.
posted by My Dad at 2:08 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]


Are you aware of the demographics of Toronto? Or Fort Mac? Hint: they are not "white" towns.

Yes I know very well the demographics of Toronto. My point isn't that people are not coming, it's that we're not going to get 100 million people voluntarily relocating to Canada. Clearly the climate doesn't bother plenty of people.
posted by GuyZero at 2:13 PM on January 11 [2 favorites]


At least his name wasn't on one of those brass plaques in the special display window by the athletic trophy case.

I knew a number of people on one of those plaques. Makes it hard to walk by one as if it was just history. They ... raise questions. That don't evaporate when the sun comes out.
Canada’s Immigration Statistics show that about 16,000 American males aged 19-25 formally immigrated to Canada in the period 1966-1972 (amounting to about 1.4% of total immigration.) - Historical Notes on Vietnam War Resisters in Canada
Note the word 'formally'. Many, many more (some significant chunk of 300,000 ^^) were long-term 'visitors' - uprooted and isolated from their young lives and their families. That was tragic enough.
posted by Twang at 4:25 PM on January 11


we're not going to get 100 million people voluntarily relocating to Canada.

And I disagree with your argument that " a lot of people from asian, south america and africa might find the climate challenging." Quite a bizarre concept, really.

The problem with mass immigration in Canada, under the current paradigm, is jobs: there aren't enough of them. 50% of immigrants live in poverty for the first generation. It has something to do with the fact that 50% of immigrants end up in TO and YVR.

But climate is not the reason why people might not want to live here (although when I contemplated returning to Canada there was only one place I considered going to, and that was Victoria).
posted by My Dad at 5:18 PM on January 11


A story from 2012. It's late at night, deep winter, driving back to Montreal from Boston via Vermont on I-89. The highway's not lit until you get within a kilometre or so of the Highgate Springs–St. Armand border crossing, when a rumble strip and overhead lights tell you to slow down for customs. It's bitterly cold, and there's snow piled high on both sides of the road. As we round a curve, our headlights light up a woman and two children walking on the highway. There's no sidewalk. The woman and kids are dark-skinned, and they're wearing thin jackets. No gloves. They're going the same direction we are.

I look at my wife and she looks at me and we confirm with each other that we're not hallucinating.

We drive about 30 seconds more to the border itself — which at 50km/hr is around half a kilometre, or 10 more minutes of walking in -20º C — and tell the customs person what we saw.

"Again?"

Turns out this happens a lot, the customs officer says. He says someone has been dropping them off about a kilometre or so from the border, and they walk the rest of the way. He pokes his head back into his office and says someone will come out to pick them up. And then we drive off. It's not good to linger at the border.
posted by awenner at 6:47 PM on January 11


CBC was interviewing some of the health care people treating those found out "wandering". The situation is grotesque, some of the worst human trafficking that I've heard about in the country in decades. The doctor interviewed related stories of people, including new moms with infants, being dumped out of the backs of panel vans into -20C night air hours walk from anywhere.

One case: Frostbitten refugee will lose fingers, toe after 7-hour trek to cross U.S.-Canada border
posted by bonehead at 7:59 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]


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