Good morning, Messrs. Chairs and honourable committee members. Thank you for the invitation to speak to you this morning concerning the RCMP's roles and efforts with regard to the current situation of irregular migration.
Before addressing the specific situation in Quebec, I would like to explain the RCMP's enforcement role and place it in context as part of a larger response, with federal partners, to the influx of asylum seekers we have been experiencing.
The RCMP is responsible for border security and enforcing the laws between the ports of entry. To do so, we employ a layered approach involving the targeted deployment of resources and technology, intelligence and information analysis, and leveraging our domestic and international partnerships.
The RCMP's primary objectives are to prevent, detect, and disrupt cross-border criminality, as well as to respond to other cross-border activities. We meet these objectives by working closely with federal counterparts, such as the Canada Border Services Agency, as well those from the United States, including U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and U.S. Homeland Security Investigations.
In border enforcement, the RCMP is at the front line, and for the most part represents the first point of contact for individuals intercepted between the points of entry who are making a refugee claim. In all cases, the RCMP must put the safety and security of Canada at the forefront while also ensuring the welfare and well-being of those attempting to enter the country.
As we all know, Canada has requirements for entry either through standard immigration processes or for refugee claims. Failure to report upon entry is an offence under section 11 of the Customs Act, and any individual who commits an offence may be arrested and subject to removal, detention, fines, or imprisonment. Individuals intercepted by the RCMP are arrested, after which a risk assessment is conducted, including an interview and background check to determine whether there has been any involvement in illegal activity, such as drug trafficking or possession of contraband, or any connection to organized crime or terrorism.
It should be emphasized that the RCMP does not simply intercept and then turn individuals over to the CBSA. A significant amount of time is taken to confirm identity and assess activities to ensure that there is no threat to Canada or Canadian interests. If threat verification is negative, the claimant is then referred to the CBSA for appropriate processing.
In the last several months, Canada has been experiencing a spike in asylum seekers, particularly in Quebec and to a lesser extent in Manitoba and British Columbia. From January to August of this year, the RCMP intercepted 13,211 people entering irregularly to make a refugee claim. The majority of intercepts—11,896—have occurred in Quebec. In July and August alone, just over 8,500 individuals were intercepted in the Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle area of the province. To put this into perspective, total RCMP “between ports of entry” intercepts across the country for 2016 were approximately 2,500 people.
As Canada's national police, the RCMP is present across the country, which allows our organization to adjust enforcement efforts and resources relatively quickly. The RCMP has significantly increased the number of resources allocated to border protection. Additional resources are on the ground in Quebec and have been for several months, to provide the required RCMP presence and monitoring, which includes conducting regular patrols along the Quebec-U.S. border.
In particular, resources have been deployed near the area of Roxham Road, as this is the point where most irregular crossings are occurring. Currently, the RCMP maintains a 24-7 presence at this location, with temporary facilities and additional infrastructure that have been set up to facilitate processing of the irregular arrivals, including a satellite detachment in close proximity to CBSA, which allows for promoting efficiencies in overall processes.
As previously stated, our primary goal is to protect the safety of Canadians and the integrity of our border. I am confident in the ability of the RCMP and the partners here today to work together to do so while upholding Canada's long-standing commitment to being a nation that welcomes those in need. Officials are working diligently to ensure that our response is effective as things continue to evolve, and that interdepartmental work that has been undertaken to date is commendable.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today.