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'No guarantees' asylum seekers will get refugee status, Quebec premier points out

cbc.ca logo cbc.ca 6 days ago CBC/Radio-Canada
'No guarantees' asylum seekers will get refugee status, Quebec premier points out © Jason Franson/Canadian Press 'No guarantees' asylum seekers will get refugee status, Quebec premier points out

In an attempt to assuage concerns about asylum seekers, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard says there are "no guarantees" the people who have recently been crossing the Canada-U.S. border illegally in droves will be granted refugee status.

In a statement posted to his Facebook page Friday night, Couillard attempted to provide clarifications about the influx of people showing up at an illegal border crossing near Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Que. and how the government is handling it.

He acknowledged how delicate the situation is, and said it's Quebec's duty to ensure they are treated with compassion and dignity as they wait to see if they will be accepted as refugees.

But he also said it was "sad that these very vulnerable people are being convinced that being admitted to Canada and here in Quebec as a refugee would be simple, even automatic. It's not. There exists no guarantee that refugee claims will be accepted, considering the strict rules that govern them."

The number of asylum seekers showing up at the crossing has been increasing in recent weeks. As many as 1,200, mainly of Haitian origin, were waiting to be processed at the border Friday.

Many of them may be basing their decision to flee on misleading and false information depicting Canada as a safe haven, posted to WhatsApp, Facebook groups and other social media.

Officials in Canada, from Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen to Public Security Minister Ralph Goodale, have also said that asylum seekers are subject to the same laws and procedures as others when it comes to their refugee claims.

Goodale has warned that irregular border crossings are not a "free ticket to stay in Canada."

More clarifications from Couillard

In his statement, Couillard said the refugee claimants have no impact on those already waiting to be accepted as immigrants to Quebec.

He also said no compromises have been made when it comes to ensuring security and health of Canadians.

Couillard appealed to what he called the "deep sense of equality and compassion" he's seen displayed by Quebecers.

He said the government is aware of its increased responsibility in this situation and asked that everyone — regular citizens and politicians alike — refrain from making misleading statements that could complicate an already complex situation.

That comment appeared to be a not-so-subtle dig at Coalition Avenir Québec Leader François Legault, who on Wednesday made comments Couillard described as "fear-mongering."

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