Tensions boil over as Conservative MPs call for action to curb illegal crossings in Emerson, Man.
Tensions boiled over in the town of Emerson, Man. during a media conference held by two Conservative Members of Parliament.
Provencher MP Ted Falk and immigration critic Michelle Rempel visited the southern Manitoba border town to call on the federal government to do more to deal with the influx of asylum seekers crossing irregularly into Manitoba from the United States.
After the media conference, an Emerson woman attending the event shouted at Rempel saying if the Conservatives are so concerned about the crossings they should've done more while in power to deal with the so-called loophole in the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement.
"You were in power for 10 years and did nothing on that same loophole," Emerson resident Joyce Dayton said to Rempel. "All of us are from immigrants here, there's not one of who isn't."
Under the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement, refugee claimants must apply for asylum in whichever country they arrive in first, but it only applies to people who arrive at official entry points. Once they are on Canadian soil, they can apply for asylum in Canada, regardless of how they got into the country.
Rempel told Dayton she just wants people to cross into Canada legally.
"What we've seen year-over-year is that there's been a big increase in the number of people crossing the border," said Rempel. "It's certainly become a problem in the last year."
Dayton later told reporters the issue has become more about race than immigration policy.
During the media conference Falk called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to visit the community to hear the concerns of local residents.
"We need to protect the integrity of our borders," said the Provencher MP whose riding includes the town Emerson. "We must always consider our national security and do our due diligence to make sure we know who is entering, where they're entering our country and why."
Reeve Greg Janzen told the crowd the Municipality of Emerson-Franklin isn't opposed to immigration.
Janzen said he'd like to see the Safe Third Country Agreement amended so asylum seekers can make a refugee claim at a Port of Entry rather than crossing irregularly.
"Let them claim asylum at the Port of Entry then they don't have to walk across in the snowbanks in the middle of winter or now into dark, try and get into Emerson to get picked then they're brought to the CBSA," said Janzen.
In an emailed statement Scott Bardsley, press secretary for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, said CBSA and RCMP have adjusted to deal with situation safely and securely and that they have tools needed to enforce the law.
In the statement Bardsley said anyone crossing between Ports of Entry is intercepted by RCMP or local authorities and undergoes security screening and cannot be charged for crossing the border irregularly unless their claim is denied.