Max Bernier tells Ottawa to 'put Canadians first' in speech from Roxham Road

PPC leader Maxime Bernier says he does not oppose 'genuine refugees' entering the country legally, but he claims most entering from Roxham Road are simply 'jumping the queue.'

Max Bernier tells Ottawa to 'put Canadians first' in speech from Roxham Road
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Though federal opposition parties have called on Ottawa to resolve the Roxham Road migrant crisis, People's Party leader Maxime Bernier attended the unofficial border crossing in person, speaking to the gravity of leaving the southern border unsecure.

On Saturday, Bernier addressed supporters in a video on social media where law enforcement officials prevented him from going where tens of thousands of migrants have entered the country illegally from the US.

"I am at Roxham Road, and as you can see, I cannot go any further as the police do not want us here… Illegal migrants can cross the border, but I cannot go near [unofficial point of entry]," said Bernier.

Several law enforcement officers in the background seemed unbothered by Bernier, who peacefully espoused the need for Canada to protect and secure its borders.

Bernier continued:

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.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault firmly told Ottawa that migrants and asylum seekers could no longer come to Canada through Roxham Road, citing "thinly stretched" resources to accommodate more migrants.

"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, adding his government faces ongoing struggles with housing, school capacity, and hospital staff. 

"At some point, Trudeau has to send a new message."

In 2017, Trudeau said Canada would "welcome" all those "fleeing persecution, terror, and war" in response to then-President Donald Trump's rollback on immigration. 

Following the tweet, Roxham Road observed a sharp increase in migrants entering the country.

Since 2017, approximately 91,000 of 150,000 asylum seekers have entered the country through Roxham Road. In 2022, 39,171 asylum seekers crossed Quebec through the unofficial border crossing.

The PPC leader said we could not save the world from chaos and strife. He added that Canada's first responsibility is its citizenry, as "it is a privilege to be Canadian."

While he did not oppose those who seek refuge in Canada from persecution abroad, he clarified the importance of allowing "genuine refugees" to enter the country, which he claimed is not the case at Roxham Road.

Legault also claimed that most Roxham migrants "are not refugees."

Though Quebec's CAQ government said it would accept 23% of asylum seekers moving forward, recent polling indicates that most (60%) Quebecers want Roxham Road closed. A separate poll by Justice pour le Québec (Justice for Quebec) found that 68% of Quebecers strongly or moderately agree with that position.

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

Ottawa quietly expelled asylum seekers who entered Canada through Roxham Road in March 2020 to limit the spread of COVID until late 2021. Trudeau admitted this approach was "reasonably effective." 

Trudeau responded Wednesday that his government could not resolve the border crisis with "simplistic solutions." He claimed his government had been actively working with the US to entirely but compassionately close all unofficial crossings.

Legault reignited the issue last week after asking the prime minister to renegotiate the Safe Third Country Agreement when US President Joe Biden visits next month. He said the current deal has failed to curb the disproportionate flow of migrants into Quebec, which Trudeau acknowledged.

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.

"If we took such an approach rather than dealing with people with dignity and respect, the result would likely be serious risks that would fall upon vulnerable migrants seeking haven in Canada," said Immigration Minister Rick Fraser. 

He claimed that migrants would have to cross through a potentially dangerous portion of the border at this time of year if Ottawa closed Roxham Road.

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  • By Alexandra Lavoie

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