Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Ralph Goodale and Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen prepare to appear before the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Hussen floats ideas to modernize safe third country agreement with U.S.

OTTAWA — Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen says he has approached the American government with ideas for modernizing a 14-year-old agreement on refugee claimants who attempt to cross the border between Canada and the United States.

One idea he is floating is to use biometrics to allow border officials to better track the movements of individuals at official ports of entry to determine if they are eligible to make a refugee claim in Canada.

“When the agreement first came into force, the agreement was predicated on line-of-sight,” Hussen told The Canadian Press on Tuesday.”You could return someone back to the U.S. or the U.S. could return someone back to Canada if they’re crossing at an official port of entry and you can see they’re coming from the other side,”.

Hussen says new technologies like biometrics could give greater enforcement powers to border security officers and help modernize the agreement.

“Now it’s easier to establish ‘country of first presence’ without the need of line-of-sight. You can do that with biometrics, you can do that other ways, so the agreement could incorporate those new developments,” Hussen said.

This is one of several ideas he has floated to the United States government as a means to modernize the safe third country agreement.

But this change would do nothing to stop the flow of irregular migrants coming to Canada through unofficial entry points like the one at Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Que., since the safe third country agreement does not apply at non-official border crossings, said Conservative Immigration critic Michelle Rempel.

That’s why the government needs to fully renegotiate the agreement or apply it to the full length of the border, she said.

She and other MPs questioned Hussen and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale on Tuesday at a meeting of the Commons immigration committee, where exchanges between the ministers and Opposition members often became testy.

Rempel said she is frustrated at the lack of details provided by the ministers to questions on the numbers of individuals who have been removed from the country after illegally claiming refugee status by crossing the border irregularly.

“I suspect that number is exceptionally low… there’s no way (Goodale) doesn’t have that number,” Rempel said.

“I think it’s because their plan isn’t working and they don’t want to be held accountable by Parliament or by the Canadian people and that’s why they’re withholding this data.”

Both Hussen and Goodale promised to table the information requested by Rempel in the coming days.

NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan was also visibly frustrated as she questioned the two ministers, repeatedly asking what they have done in their discussions with the U.S. to address what she says is the “core of the issue,” which she believes is President Donald Trump.

“Every time the president utters or tweets some anti-immigrant, anti-immigrant rhetoric, it creates a situation and there’s a reaction to that,” Kwan said.

“I think it’s fair to say since the Trump administration formed office there’s been a significant change with respect to asylum seekers crossing over to Canada irregularly and we have seen the numbers spike and continue to go up.”

Just Posted

WATCH: Central Albertans learn about farm life at Sunnybrook Farm Museum

Pioneer Days Festival in Red Deer Saturday-Sunday

Raising awareness for Bikers Against Child Abuse

Second annual Raise A Ruckus Against Child Abuse was held at the Red Deer Radisson Hotel Saturday

Number of seniors who play bridge in Red Deer growing

Red Deer Bridge Club has been around for close to 60 years

Central Alberta Yogathon cancelled Saturday

Due to air quality concerns the fourth annual event will take place Sept. 15

Update: Buccaneers win 38-13 in final home game

Bucs off to the finals with the win

WATCH: Medicine River Wildlife Centre opens new playground

The grand opening of the playground was Saturday morning

Ottawa announces $189M to extend employment insurance for seasonal workers

ESCUMINAC, N.B. — Ottawa has announced $189 million for an employment insurance… Continue reading

Trudeau formally announces he’ll run again in next year’s election

MONTREAL — Justin Trudeau will run again in the 2019 federal election.… Continue reading

Smoke from B.C. wildfires prompts air quality advisories across Western Canada

VANCOUVER — More smoky, hazy air is expected to blanket much of… Continue reading

Anti-pipeline protesters released days before weeklong jail sentences end

MAPLE RIDGE, B.C. — Several pipeline protesters were released from a British… Continue reading

All eyes on Andrew Scheer as Conservative convention set for Halifax

OTTAWA — After a week of internal caucus squabbles, Conservative Leader Andrew… Continue reading

Trump says his White House counsel not a ‘RAT’ like Nixon’s

BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — President Donald Trump insisted Sunday that his White House… Continue reading

Wildfire moves closer to Glacier National Park’s scenic road

MISSOULA, Mont. — A wildfire in Montana’s Glacier National Park is forcing… Continue reading

Prime Minister Trudeau, Premier Couillard march in Montreal’s Pride parade

MONTREAL — Thousands of cheering spectators lined the streets of Montreal on… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month