The new asylum seeker agreement between Canada and the United States will not deter migrants from trying to cross into Canada outside official ports of entry, Quebec immigration advocacy groups say.
Restricting access to the border and preventing migrants from accessing a safe pathway into the country will only incentivize bad-faith actors, said Abdulla Daoud, executive director of Montreal-based The Refugee Centre.
"This type of decision-making … in the past has led to the creation of many human traffickers and smuggling rings," Daoud said in an interview on Friday. "Canada never really had to deal with that too much. But now I think we're going to see the numbers increase because these individuals are not going to go away."
The deal was announced on Friday during U.S. President Joe Biden's trip to Ottawa. It was described in U.S. documents as a "supplement" to the 2004 treaty known as the Safe Third Country Agreement. That treaty prevents people in Canada or in the United States from crossing the border and making a refugee claim in either country — but until now, it only covered official points of entry.
As of Saturday, the treaty started to apply along the nearly 9,000-kilometre border, including at popular unofficial crossings like Roxham Road in Quebec, through which tens of thousands of asylum seekers have entered Canada in the past few years.
Eva Gracia-Turgeon, executive director of Home of the World, a shelter for asylum seekers and migrants in Montreal, said it is possible that would-be refugees who are determined to cross into Canada may end up dying by taking dangerous routes into the country.
"It's very possible that people will try to cross over using more hidden places and get stuck in the woods for two weeks and end up losing their lives," Gracia-Turgeon said in an interview.
"We are talking about not only individuals but also families and pregnant women and young children who are going to cross. So potentially, there will be more drama at the border."