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Closing Roxham Road solves nothing, say Bridges Not Borders

Premier François Legault told reporters on May 11 that he would be asking the federal government to close the Roxham Road entry point into Canada from the United States, suggesting the province does not have the capacity to manage the growing numbers of asylum seekers. This followed a call from the Parti Québécois earlier in May to put an end to the irregular crossing by thousands into the province each year. For Wendy Ayotte of the Hemmingford-based organization Bridges Not Borders, both leaders missed the mark.

“The main thing is to ask for the end of the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA),” she says of the pact between Canada and the United States, which has Canada sending asylum seekers, who enter in the regular way from the United States, back to that country for their claims to be processed. Those who do not consider themselves to be safe in the United States are compelled to cross at irregular entry points, as Canada is then required to treat their claims.

Roxham Road is now the most popular, or regularly used, entry point of this type in Canada. It is also the most controversial. “This crossing is safe and is regulated, but it does not have to be there at all,” says Ayotte, who says that because the number of displaced people seeking refuge in Canada continues to climb, any suggestion that we can just shut our doors is a short-sighted response or simply naïve.

Ayotte says the province’s suggestion there is no capacity to house incoming asylum-seekers is inconsistent with what most organizations are saying on the ground, especially in Montreal. She says the reality is that not all who cross into Quebec stay in the province; and of those who do, most find work quickly and want to contribute.

In the meantime, Ayotte says she and other members of Bridges not Borders have restarted their weekly border visits on Sundays to hand out water and provide friendly support to those intending to cross into Canada. A similar organization across the border, Plattsburgh Cares, visits the border during the week.

More information on Bridges not Borders is available online, at bridgesnotborders.ca.

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