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Politics

Conservatives accuse Goodale of ‘hiding’ the number of deported asylum seekers

Ottawa is under increasing pressure to stop asylum seekers from entering the country. The opposition wants the government to change the policy that allows people to circumvent official border crossings.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale was accused on Tuesday of “hiding” the number of people who have been removed from Canada after crossing the border irregularly and having their asylum claims denied.

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel made the accusation as Goodale and a half-dozen other officials (including new RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki) appeared before the House of Commons immigration committee. The minister was asked to provide the committee with an up-to-date tally of removals over the last 18 months.

READ MORE: ‘We do not appreciate or welcome irregular migration,’ says Hussen

The last available numbers, reported by Global News three weeks ago, suggested that just under 250 people had been removed between April 2017 and May 2018. That represents around one per cent of the 26,000 people who crossed the border irregularly during that same span.

“I wouldn’t have (updated) numbers with me today,” Goodale told Rempel on Tuesday.

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“But I would be more than happy to examine the question in the record of the meeting and provide the answer.”

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Pro- and anti-immigration protesters rally near Lacolle border
Pro- and anti-immigration protesters rally near Lacolle border

Rempel said she believes that Goodale does, in fact, have the number.

“I would suggest he has it. I would suggest he’s hiding it,” she said, prompting blowback from the minister himself and Liberal members of the committee.

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“Obviously, she’s only interested in disinformation,” Goodale said of Rempel.

The government has said that each asylum claim must be processed individually and fairly, which requires time and resources. Additionally, removals are often complicated by refusals from an asylum seeker’s home country to provide the necessary travel documents.

Global News has reached out to Goodale’s office to request the updated removal numbers as soon as they are made available.

Conservative MP Larry Maguire told the committee that he wanted an “ironclad” commitment from Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen (who also testified Tuesday) that people won’t get to stay in Canada “for years” while they wait to have their asylum claims processed.

READ MORE: Canada plans to speed up asylum-seeker claims process

Goodale jumped in on behalf of Hussen, arguing that the government set aside new money in its last budget to speed up the process.

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“The apparatus around removals will have more resources,” he promised.

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“CBSA is working on the backlog that exists and their process should be able to show increased results over the course of the spring and summer.”

Asked point-blank if the Canadian government wants to see the influx of asylum seekers continue between border checkpoints, Hussen replied: “No.”

Trump rhetoric not to blame

Goodale and Hussen were also asked on Tuesday whether Canada had spoken to U.S. officials about the anti-immigration rhetoric and policies coming out of the White House.

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Trump says working on stopping illegal immigration, preventing ‘gangs’ pouring across border
Trump says working on stopping illegal immigration, preventing ‘gangs’ pouring across border

NDP MP Jenny Kwan pointed out that tweets and other statements by U.S. President Donald Trump may be to blame for people coming north. Goodale replied that asylum seekers began crossing the Canada-U.S. border before Trump took office in January 2017.

“So there’s not a specific correlation that’s identifiable, because the numbers began before the government changed” he noted.

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READ MORE: Pamphlets circulating in Plattsburgh, NY, offer how-to instructions on border crossing

Kwan suggested he should read an informal survey from Amnesty International that suggests many migrants are coming to Canada because they feel they cannot get due process in the U.S.

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