Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale refused to use the word “crisis” when describing the phenomenon of border crossers streaming into Canada during a committee appearance in Ottawa yesterday.
However, internal emails obtained by CBC show U.S. officials saw things differently when they came to Canada last year, when the flow of asylum seekers crossing the border was at its height.
RCMP officers stopped 3,134 people in July of 2017 and 5,712 people in August, 2017.
Numbers released earlier this month show the number of people intercepted by the RCMP decreased significantly last month, with 1,263 entering the country outside official border points compared to 1,869 in May.
Speaking in front of the Commons immigration committee on irregular migration on Tuesday, Goodale defended his government’s plan to deal with the spike in asylum seekers crossing into Canada, while swatting away Conservative claims that there is no comprehensive, costed plan to deal with border-crossings.
“There is a challenge but it is not a crisis,” he said.
But that’s the very word U.S. officials used to describe the situation at the border in Lacolle, Que. when they came for a tour last summer.
According to emails obtained under access to information laws, last July the U.S. embassy and the U.S. Border Patrol asked the Canadian Border Services Agency for permission to tour the facilities near the Roxham Road border crossing and chat with RCMP officers there.
It was pitched as a way to show “how well we work together in the eyes of the embassy leadership,” said one email from a U.S. Border Patrol staffer.
U.S. side ‘looking to do more’
At first, the Canadian side resisted the Americans’ request for a tour.
“My concern is that it would be better to have a consensus and to review our procedures and processes with our Canadian partners before exchanging them with our American partners,” wrote Pierre Provost, CBSA’s acting regional director general for the Quebec region.
But they eventually went ahead with the tour. As one CBSA strategic adviser wrote in an email, “it would be useless to refuse this request since they would then only have to cross the point of entry to come see the Canadian side.”
About 16 people took part in the tour, according to an itinerary recently released under the Access to Information Act.
The day after the Aug. 2 tour, U.S. officials sent a note to the Canadian side promising action.
“We received a heads up that the U.S. Chargé d’Affaires will send a cable to Washington stating that the Lacolle situation is a ‘crisis’,” wrote Melissa Bindner, a strategic adviser with CBSA, in an email.