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COMMENTARY: Closing Roxham Road is the key to restoring confidence in immigration

The crossing at Roxham Road in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Que.
The crossing at Roxham Road in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Que. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Charles Krupa

The first rule of any government should be a pledge to do no harm. If Justin Trudeau had made that pledge when he first got elected, we wouldn’t be embroiled in the divisive, nation-destroying debate we are currently having about immigration.

I have been an advocate for more immigration since my days as a lobbyist with the Canadian Federation for Independent Business in 2006, when Alberta’s economy was booming and it was impossible for small businesses to find enough qualified staff to fill the positions that were available. We were fielding stories from northern communities about hotel patrons having to make their own beds because they couldn’t hire enough chambermaids, and about Tim Horton’s having to pay more than $20 an hour to attract workers to Fort McMurray.

Alberta had a population of 1.7 million in 1971. As of this year, it is at 4.4 million. When an economy is ticking on all cylinders, it requires a large number of migrants to fuel the growth.

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Alberta will boom again and we need to make sure Albertans have confidence in the immigration system so we can attract the workers we will need to sustain it.

READ MORE: Majority of Canadians think immigration should be limited

That confidence is nearly completely gone and the Trudeau government is to blame. A Leger poll in June 2019 found that 63 per cent of respondents thought the government should prioritize limiting immigration levels because the country might be reaching a limit in its ability to integrate them.

Only 37 per cent said the priority should be on growing immigration to meet the demands of Canada’s expanding economy.

Similarly, an Ipsos poll released in early September shows that 41 per cent of Canadians believe immigrants take important social services away from “real” Canadians, and only 11 per cent agree that Canada would be better off if we let in all immigrants who wanted to come here.

That is a total failure in leadership. It means Canadians would rather see their economy impaired than accept more newcomers to help us grow.

Even more remarkable is that Canadians’ belief that immigrants aren’t integrating is at odds with reality. I spoke with Robert Falconer, an expert on immigration and refugee policy from the University of Calgary School of Public Policy, about the mismatch.

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Canada actually has an exemplary record of integration: according to 2016 Statistics Canada data, 93 per cent of newcomers know one or both of the official languages; 85 per cent go on to become Canadian; 93 per cent identify strongly with Canadian identity, with only three per cent saying they identify more strongly with the country of their birth.

Falconer says the reason for these strong affirmations of Canadian identity is because we have an immigration system that places an emphasis on knowing English or French in a rigorous point system to select those who will come to Canada. In addition, those who do choose Canada are motivated to come here for the values we are built on, and by association, actively reject the sometimes oppressive regimes they left.

WATCH: (Aug. 26, 2019) Canadians respond to controversial anti-immigration billboard

Canadians respond to controversial anti-immigration billboard
Canadians respond to controversial anti-immigration billboard
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So, there is no broad-based problem with integration. We have not reached the limit of our ability to integrate. And yet Canadians think otherwise. Why?

The main reason is because the Liberal government has failed to stop the flow of illegal migrants coming across the border at Roxham Road. It has tried to solve the problem by forcing us all to use tortured terminology, referring to them as “irregular migrants,” but Canadians aren’t fooled. If they were legitimate refugee claimants, they would be crossing at a proper border crossing. Instead, those who come to Canada by way of Roxham Road pass a big sign saying it is illegal to cross there. They are apprehended by an RCMP officer. About half of them ultimately have their refugee claim refused.

There is nothing more un-Canadian than queue jumping. Not only does it irritate rule-following Canadians, it also irritates the immigrants who did come to Canada the proper way, as well as those who are waiting years to bring in family members through the family reunification program, as well as those who are lined up to privately sponsor legitimate refugees.

REALITY CHECK: Andrew Scheer’s claim about refugees ‘jumping the queue’ is false

If it’s easier to cheat to get in, it is going to encourage a lot more cheating, which will further erode confidence. This needs to be turned around, pronto.

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There is one simple way to restore confidence in the system and that is to close the entry at Roxham Road.

Falconer suggested the best way to do this might be to dispatch immigration lawyers who can offer an immediate preliminary judgement on whether a person would qualify to make a refugee claim (pending a security review) and those who should be immediately denied entry.

Canadians are a welcoming people, but we don’t want to be taken advantage of. A new government has the power to enforce the law and secure the border. For the sake of preserving the spirit of openness and generosity that defines us, they must act.

Danielle Smith is a host with 770 CHQR. She can be reached at danielle@770chqr.com.

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