Good morning, Mr. Chair. I'm happy to appear before the committee on the topic of irregular migration today.
My name is Mike MacDonald. I'm the Associate Assistant Deputy Minister of Strategic and Program Policy at IRCC, and I'm joined by my colleague, Louis Dumas, who is the Director General of our domestic network.
I will be pleased to answer any questions committee members may have, but first, I would like to make a few comments.
As everyone is aware, the Government of Canada has spent many months responding to the increase in irregular migration at key points along the border.
We continue to work with full vigour on this issue in collaboration with provinces, territories and municipalities, and across different departments and agencies within the Government of Canada.
Our common goals remain the same: ensuring an orderly and efficient process, treating asylum seekers humanely and in line with our international obligations, and protecting the safety and security of Canadians. That being said, I think it's important to keep sight of the fact that the asylum system has a role that is fundamentally different from all other areas of the immigration system.
Asylum claims are governed, in part, by international treaties that Canada has signed, so we have a legal responsibility to assess asylum claims as per international conventions.
The critical goals of Canada's asylum system include: first, saving lives; second, offering protection to displaced and persecuted people from every part of the world; third, responding to international crises by providing assistance to those in need of protection; and finally, meeting our country's international legal obligations with respect to refugees.
Our rules-based system will ultimately determine the validity of any individual asylum seeker's claim, but as officers, we never forget that many of these claimants have made very difficult decisions to leave their lives behind in order to arrive at our border.
We treat them with respect and afford them the opportunity to have their cases heard.
At the same time, we make every effort to communicate to potential asylum seekers that entering Canada between designated points of entry is not a free ticket into the country. Rather, it is a violation of Canadian law and can be very dangerous.
We continue to apply our policies and procedures to protect our border while respecting Canada's domestic and international obligations.
Many federal departments and agencies, along with provincial and local partners, are working together to manage the situation. We're making every effort to ensure adequate resources are available at key locations to address volume. Departments are continually reviewing their operational priorities to ensure we are appropriately responding. Together, we have made significant progress in the last several months in planning for further potential influxes.
This includes supporting the work of the Ad Hoc Intergovernmental Task Force on Irregular Migration, which provides a focal point for the collaborative work on this issue.
The Task Force has met nine times, and will continue to meet on a regular basis to discuss the latest progress and ongoing coordination efforts.
At their most recent meeting in Ottawa on April 18, members of the task force agreed to take concrete action to ensure even more coordinated and effective responses to the irregular migration situation. Although irregular crossings from the United States into Canada have occurred in different locations across the country such as the Pacific Highway in British Columbia; Emerson, Manitoba; and of course, Lacolle, Quebec, we do appreciate that the province of Quebec is in fact receiving a disproportionate number of the asylum seekers. That's why we're currently working with our Quebec counterparts on a number of issues in order to help move individuals who wish to go as quickly as possible to other provinces.
We also continue to work collaboratively with our counterparts in all provinces as part of our contingency planning, because even though we're managing current volumes, we know we must prepare for the possibility that numbers may increase. In fact, we've made significant progress in the last several months in planning for further potential influxes of asylum seekers, and we've introduced innovations into our processes that will help ensure a rapid response to any surge in irregular migration.
At the same time, we're continuing our outreach efforts to ensure that individuals are aware of Canadian immigration laws, and the risks of irregular migration into Canada.
In order to do so, we continue to work closely with our missions in the United States, engaging directly with communities in that country, and issuing messages on social media channels in Canada and the United States on these topics.
Many of the recent asylum seekers are Nigerians with U.S. visas, so we are also engaged with our U.S. counterparts in Nigeria to address joint challenges. With that in mind, we've been sharing information with the United States with the view of preventing any abuses of U.S. visas for the purpose of asylum, and that has had an impact in terms of the United States taking action.
In closing, I would like to state that we value the continued close collaboration among all those working to address the asylum issue both at home and abroad. We are committed to doing even more if and when opportunities arise.
Thanks very much, I look forward to answering your questions.