There are elections in the air. Having managed to occupy the ground of Quebec identity firmly since 2018, François Legault seems ready to double the bet in view of the fall elections.
This week, we saw the Parti Québécois join the party by calling for the closure of the famous Roxham road, used by many asylum seekers. This proposal had already been made in the 2018 elections by the PQ, which had decided to surf on anti-immigrant sentiments.
Legault took the ball and repeated his own request to close Roxham. Legault does not intend to let the PQ rise from the ashes and he will once again play the immigration card to the fullest.
Of note, these asylum claims at Roxham are not illegal. They are protected by international law. At most, we can call them irregular, because normally, to cross the lines, we go to a border crossing, like Lacolle.
This legal reality does not alter its politically explosive character. Since the last election, Legault has used immigration as a political weapon, “take less”, his Donald Trump rallying cry.
Much like Trump’s imaginary wall, Legault’s oratorical outbursts against immigrants are pure rubbish.
In 2022, Quebec will have to welcome 130,000 newcomers. This will be 70,000 regular immigrants and more than 30,000 temporary foreign workers. The latter are a key element in responding to the labor shortage in several sectors, including hotels and restaurants.
Added to this are another 30,000 asylum seekers, mainly from Roxham Road.
Due to an agreement between our two countries, the United States is deemed to be a safe third country. Consequently, if you apply for asylum at a border post, you will be turned back to the States.
Hence the interest for asylum seekers to cross at places like Roxham Road.
Quebec is not the only province struggling with such a situation, but the concentration of cases in the eastern United States means that the number of requests is very high here. As a solution, the federal government and the Americans are talking about a possible agreement to oversee everything, but it is far from done.
In the meantime, it’s politics as usual with a bad undertone of intolerance.
Screaming for the closure of Roxham Road is good politically, even if it is not legally feasible and would only move the problem to the next road.
In fact, there are over 2 million immigration cases pending and it is total chaos at Immigration Canada. Let us be clear, it is not the fault of the civil servants, this is a flagrant case of incompetence and political negligence.
This is a file that has never been a priority and catching up will require creativity, resources and bold innovation.
The first step must be the guardianship of Immigration Canada. It urges.