As the U.S.-Canada border prepares to close to all people except essential travellers, irregular migrants who try to cross the border will also be denied entry.
In a daily briefing to reporters Friday, March 20, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that the border will close at midnight Saturday.
“Canada and the United States are announcing a reciprocal arrangement that we will now be returning irregular migrants that attempt to cross anywhere at the Canada-U.S. border,” Trudeau said outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa.
Over the past few years, thousands of people have gotten around the Safe Third Country by crossing at informal points, specifically along Roxham Road in Quebec.
“We also have ensured we are comfortable with this process as being in line with Canada’s values on the treatment of refugees and vulnerable people,” he said.
In a statement, the Canadian Council for Refugees said it was stunned by Friday’s decision.
“During a pandemic, we must uphold our commitments to protecting the rights of refugees and vulnerable migrants. This includes our fundamental legal obligation to not turn refugees away at the borders,” said Janet Dench, the organization’s executive director, said in an email.
“We are shocked that the government of Canada is not prepared to live up to that commitment.”
Meanwhile, the Canadian American Business Council is working on ways to use existing “trusted traveller” programs to streamline the process of getting across the border for those who qualify.
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says it is vital to the economic health of both countries that the flow of $2.7 billion worth of goods that cross the Canada-U.S. border each day be allowed to continue.