Canada and U.S. reach deal to close Roxham Road: sources

According to Radio-Canada, Ottawa will welcome an unspecified number of illegal immigrants through official channels to assist the U.S.

Canada and U.S. reach deal to close Roxham Road: sources
The Canadian Press / Ryan Remiorz
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Canada and the U.S. have reached a deal on Roxham Road, permitting Ottawa to close the unofficial border crossing at the border.

According to Radio-Canada, Ottawa will welcome an unspecified number of illegal immigrants through official channels to assist the U.S.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Sean Fraser have allegedly worked with the U.S. recently to reach a deal. However, specific details of the agreement have yet to be made public.

“It’s an issue we take extraordinarily seriously,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters Wednesday evening.

“We have worked closely with our American counterparts for many months…to ensure the integrity of our borders and protect vulnerable asylum seekers.”

Roxham Road has caused significant tension between Ottawa, Quebec and the U.S. because of an influx of asylum seekers entering Canada since 2017.

Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre openly called for Ottawa to close Roxham Road in January.

"It is not legal to cross there. That is a reality," said Poilievre.

The Bloc Quebecois echoed those sentiments. However, PPC leader Maxime Bernier was the only one to visit the unofficial border crossing after expressing concerns for several years.

"I am at Roxham Road, and as you can see, I cannot go any further as the police do not want us here," said Bernier in late February.

"We at the PPC have a solution for that. We are not American — we won't build a wall — but we can build a fence and [instruct] the RCMP to do their job."

"We must stop [illegal] migration and ensure our borders are respected."

First signed in 2002, the Safe Third Country Agreement remains controversial despite some recent tweaks since 2018. 

Under the pact, asylum seekers in Canada or the US must make their claim in the first country they enter. But a loophole in that agreement allows those who enter Canada via an unofficial crossing to remain in the country without the immediate threat of deportation.

However, asylum seekers can still hear their appeals in Canada if they enter at an unofficial crossing like Roxham Road, where thousands of migrants continue to pour into the country. 

"These people are jumping the queue," added Bernier. "We must have the courage to demand respect [for our sovereignty]."

In 2022, 39,171 illegal immigrants entered Quebec through Roxham.

Quebec Premier François Legault asked Ottawa to permanently close the entry point last month, citing the continued strain Roxham migrants put on the province's social services and healthcare systems.

Amid the province bolstering funding to community groups that help migrants, New York City's mayor revealed his administration provided bus tickets to illegal immigrants wanting to leave the city, including those travelling north of the border.

As reported by the New York Post, some migrants in the Big Apple are receiving complimentary tickets to Plattsburgh, NY, where they then travel about half an hour by shuttle or taxi to cross into Quebec at Roxham Road.

"It is time for Justin Trudeau to put out a new tweet to say not to come anymore because we have exceeded our reception capacity," said Legault. "We have problems with housing, school capacity, and hospital staff. At some point, Trudeau has to send a new message."

The federal government revealed they transported 5,300 migrants entering Quebec into mostly Windsor and Niagara Falls, Ontario, with the former since requesting federal funding to assist with providing them “temporary accommodations.”

The IRCC said about 3,300 migrants seeking asylum in Ontario came through Roxham Road.

Poilievre called for Trudeau to present a concrete plan to close the unofficial border crossing along the Quebec-New York border, suggesting Ottawa did that during COVID and can do it again.

Ottawa expelled asylum seekers in March 2020 to limit the spread of COVID until late 2021. Trudeau admitted this approach was "reasonably effective." 

However, a surge of illegal immigration at Roxham in 2021 and 2022 cost taxpayers nearly $87.8 million to pay for "temporary accommodations for unvaccinated asymptomatic asylum seekers without a suitable quarantine plan."

While unvaccinated Canadians could not travel via plane or train domestically and internationally, Ottawa accepted refugee and asylum claimants "regardless of their vaccination status." 

According to government data, nearly two-thirds of asylum claims in Canada last year occurred in Quebec, with most coming from Haiti, Turkey, Colombia, Chile, Pakistan and Venezuela.

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