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FACT CHECK: Do the Conservatives really want to “militarize” the Canada-US border?

Canada’s Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen recently stated that, if elected, the Conservatives intend on militarizing the Canada-US border.

THE CLAIM:

Canada’s Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen recently stated that, if elected, the Conservatives intend on militarizing the Canada-US border.

In a news conference on Tuesday, Hussen first stated that the Conservatives “have no plan” when it comes to addressing the border crisis, then changed his tune to allege that they do have a plan: “to militarize the border.”

“I haven’t seen anything from the Conservatives, they don’t have a plan. You know what their plan is? To militarize the border and place a CBSA official or a RCMP official every 100 meters” said Hussen.

“We don’t have the resources for that kind of half-baked, impractical plan,” he continued.

Indeed, stationing a Canadian border official at 100m intervals across Canada’s 9,000km border would be an “impractical plan.”

But did the Conservative Party propose anything like this? True North puts on its fact-checking hat to find the truth.

BACKGROUND:

Last week, Conservative MP and immigration critic Michelle Rempel held a news conference in British Columbia where she encouraged the government to study the issue of Canada’s immigration screening techniques.

Rempel mentioned three examples (one, two, three) of instances where our national security procedures failed and the government allowed dangerous criminals and an individual deemed a threat to national security to enter Canada.  

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During her seven-and-a-half minute speech, Rempel did not once mention adding extra border guards or calling on the military to help secure the border.

Her comments were directed entirely at strengthening Canada’s immigration security screening process and calling for a Parliamentary committee to further study the issue. She also criticized the cost of the current approach and bureaucrat overlaps that leads to holes in the system.

THE CONSERVATIVE POSITION ON BORDER SECURITY

What the Conservatives have called for in the past is to close the loophole that allows illegal migrants to circumvent the Safe Third Country Agreement by bypassing official border stations and making their asylum claims inside Canada.

The Tories propose doing this by designating the entire border an “official crossing.”

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This would give the RCMP already stationed at major “unofficial crossings” the power to turn away migrants trying to cross the border illegally, as CBSA officers do when asylum seekers arrive at official crossings.

So, when the Conservatives say “designate the entire border an official crossing” does that mean building some 90,000 new border stations to be spaced 100 metres apart along the nearly 9,000km Canada-U.S. border? Hardly.

According to the feds, the overwhelming majority of all illegal crossings occur at just two locations: Roxham Road, Quebec and Emerson, Manitoba.

Canada could address the problem by declaring the border an “official crossing” and placing CBSA officers in these two locations. This would allow Canada to enforce the Safe Third Country Agreement — which demands that asylum seekers file their claims in the first safe country they visit.

According to a recent statement from Rempel, the Conservatives have “called for the loophole in the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement to be closed, suggested repealing Section 159.4 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), and called for the asylum claim backlog to be cleared.”

Section 159.4 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act contradicts Canada’s border laws and enables the loophole that allows migrants to file refugee claims if they enter Canada illegally.

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MILITARIZATION?

Does the Conservative proposal include a plan to “militarize the border”?

During the 2017 Conservative leadership race, then-candidate Maxime Bernier suggested that Canada deploy members of the Canadian Forces to help secure the border.

“We’re using the Canadian Forces when we have natural disasters in this country,” Bernier said in an interview with CBC News. “Let’s use them on a temporary basis in places where these people are crossing the border.”

Maxime Bernier is no longer a member of the Conservative Party of Canada. He announced in August that he quit to start his own political party, the People’s Party of Canada.

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No other Conservative MP or spokesperson has echoed or seconded Bernier’s suggestion to use members of the military to help enforce Canada’s border laws.

Alleging that Bernier speaks for the Conservative Party is equivalent to suggesting that Ontario MP Leona Alleslev — the latest MP to cross the floor and leave the Liberal Party to join the Conservatives — still speaks for the Liberal Party.

THE VERDICT:

Hussen’s claim is false.




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