The announcement last week that the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) would now be enforced across the entire length of the border between Canada and the United States was met with extreme concern and warnings of humanitarian catastrophe on the part of solidarity groups here in the Valley and across the country.
On the other end of the spectrum, Quebec’s Premier François Legault hailed the decision as a victory, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke of the agreement as a way to ensure the safety of asylum seekers, of securing Canadian borders, and of maintaining the strength of our immigration system.
The notion that closing our borders will somehow make them more secure is shockingly naïve. The individuals who were crossing irregularly at Hemmingford’s Roxham Road were doing so in an orderly manner: they were literally turning themselves in to the police to be screened and processed. The STCA, which is currently before the Supreme Court, should have been removed or placed on hold, making it possible for asylum seekers to cross at official entry points across the whole country. This would have removed the immediate strain on Quebec, and it would have kept the border secure.
Now, asylum seekers will likely undertake much more dangerous journeys to cross the border, escorted by those who would profit from their desperation. The border was secure. What was missing were the resources and the political will to provide equal protection to all those seeking refuge from war, persecution, and danger. The families crossing in an irregular but orderly fashion at Roxham Road were neither a threat to Canadian values nor the rule of law. Turning our southern border into an imaginary wall will only lead to more suffering.