Parti Quebecois calls for closure of Roxham Road border crossing

The end of Roxham Road where thousands of asylum seekers have crossed is seen Friday, March 20, 2020 in Hemmingford Que. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

The Parti Québécois (PQ) is calling for the closure of Roxham Road, the entry route to Canada for irregular immigrants from the US.

A record number of asylum claims -- 8,000 -- has been recorded since the reopening of the road in November, according to Radio-Canada.

"For the first three months of the year, we are at 7,000 entries and we will soon reach 10,000 entries," said PQ MNA Pascal Bérubé at a press conference Tuesday morning at the National Assembly. "This is more than 90 per cent of the illegal entries in Canada. It can't go on."

Alongside him, PQ leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon maintained that the federal government deliberately reopened Roxham Road knowing full well that Quebec did not have the integration capacity to receive the flood of arrivals.

"It's chaos and it's probably intentional," he charged. "It's intentional in the sense that the Quebec government has asked for a completely different management of Roxham Road."

Bérubé is calling for the federal government to open another port of entry for irregular immigration into Ontario instead.

"Why is this happening in Quebec? Obviously, there is no sensitivity [on the part of the federal government] to integration skills and then to French. Ottawa doesn't give a damn."

The immigration debate moved to the Blue Room during Question Period, where the issue of the threshold of immigrants received per year and integration capacity turned into a war of numbers between the CAQ government and the Liberals.

Opposition leader Dominique Anglade will announce later the threshold of immigrants her party considers acceptable to receive each year in these times of labour shortages, but she echoed the demand of business groups for 70,000 immigrants per year.

For his part, Legault recalled that the threshold is currently set at 50,000, but that 18,000 people have been added to make up for the year 2020, when the bar was lowered to 26,000.

PQ parliamentary leader Joël Arseneau expressed concern about the federal government's desire to increase the number of immigrants received to 450,000, which could push Quebec to receive its proportional share against its will, or about 120,000 people.

"We want to limit them, for a good number of years, to 50, 000. It's been accepted, so far, we're in the fourth year, so why shouldn't it continue to go well?" he said. 

Last week, a group of employer organizations had argued in favour of raising the annual threshold to 70,000 immigrants, in order to partially fill the labor shortage.

The Parti Québécois subsequently indicated that it was opposed to raising the threshold and instead called first for a calm debate on immigration, based on sound science.

Under the Safe Third Country Agreement, which came into effect in 2004, Canada and the United States recognize each other as "safe havens" to seek refuge and protection. In practice, this means that Canada can turn away a potential refugee who arrives at land ports of entry along the Canada-U.S. border, because that refugee must pursue his or her asylum claim in the U.S., where he or she first arrived.

It was this agreement that caused asylum seekers to use Roxham Road in the Monteregie region because it is not an "official port of entry" and Canada must process their asylum claims.

The agreement has been challenged in court by refugee organizations. They are calling for the Supreme Court to review the constitutionality of the agreement.

-- This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on May 10, 2022.


Breaking News alerts, info on contests, and special offers from partners