Mr. Speaker, I appreciate being given the opportunity to contribute to this important discussion and to present some of the measures taken by the government to resolve this matter. I am honoured to be sharing my time with the member for Scarborough—Rouge Park, who will speak when I am done.
Our government believes that it is very important to collaborate with its various partners in managing the increase in irregular crossings from the United States recorded in the past year. We recognize that these irregular border crossings have a major impact at the local level, and that this requires thorough consideration and ongoing co-operation with the provinces and territories affected. We have made considerable progress in recent months in preparing for possible future influxes.
Our government is taking real action by expanding its overall outreach efforts to inform people and provide the facts about Canada's asylum system. In doing so, we are working closely with our missions in the United States, engaging with communities in the U.S., and issuing messages on social media channels to provide accurate information.
I travelled to Miami to speak with communities about the risks involved in crossing the border and the need to proceed through proper channels. I have personally delivered a message that is crystal clear: entering between ports of entry is not a free ticket into Canada. There are rigorous immigration and customs rules to be followed, and we enforce them to safeguard our communities against security risks.
We have also made it clear that by entering into Canada and making an asylum claim, individuals could be risking their ability to return to the United States. In fact, I have made it very clear that if their asylum claim in Canada is rejected, they may not be able to return to the United States, as U.S. officials would determine who is eligible to enter their country.
Our government is also proactively engaged with the United States government and the U.S. Embassy in Canada on these issues, as our two countries continue to co-operate to address irregular migration across our shared border.
For example, the Minister of Public Safety meets regularly with his American counterpart to discuss this matter. Also, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship met with the new U.S. Ambassador to Canada to talk about this specific situation.
Our missions have engaged more than 120 American decision-makers, including members of Congress and governors, and have met with more than 460 diplomatic representatives, organizations, community leaders, and municipal, county, and state-level officials across the United States. We have organized round tables and outreach and information sessions with immigration organizations, Hispanic civil society organizations, cultural and academic associations, media, and the diplomatic community, and we have conducted proactive outreach to West African, Haitian, and other communities.
The Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, members of Parliament like myself, and Canadian consular officials have participated in numerous interviews with U.S. media outlets, including Univision regional in Miami, Houston, and Dallas, and Univision national from Ottawa.
Between December 18 and March 17, we also ran a targeted advertising campaign, using search engine marketing to reach key populations in the United States located in select cities. Stakeholders and leaders in the communities with which we have engaged have told us they understand and appreciate the importance of countering misinformation, and they are willing to work with us to help disseminate the facts about Canada's asylum system.
Our government is preparing for further outreach in the United States and continuing our engagement with our American counterparts.
I feel for this debate, and it is important for me to inform this House on what I heard in Miami when I spoke with the Haitian and Latin American diaspora communities.
There is misinformation being proliferated in Miami, suggesting that once a person is in Canada, they can automatically stay. This misinformation is not only incorrect, but an incredibly cruel manipulation of scared or confused individuals who are looking simply for a better life. It leads to dangerous risks being taken by these individuals. The solution to the spread of misinformation is truth, and the members of this government and this caucus are taking real action to get the facts and the truth out about proper process for entering Canada.
I met real people on my mission, people who want to come to Canada and become a part of the greatest country in the world. I spoke to them, spoke with them, heard their stories and hopes, and I had the privilege of sharing with them the correct process for achieving those goals if they wish.
Our government will continue to be proactive to address the recent influx of asylum claims between our ports of entry. We will continue to work with partners to ensure that correct information is spread about the dangers and risks of crossing the border for asylum in this manner.
We remain committed to upholding Canada's proud tradition of offering protection to people seeking refuge and doing so responsibly and effectively. Canadians are rightly proud of our strong international reputation for humanitarian leadership.
The assertion that fulfilling our international obligations to process refugees is slowing down other immigration processes is an utter fabrication by the Conservative Party, and once again the only counter to misinformation is truth. The truth is that our government actually knows how to walk and chew gum at the same time, and for decades, Canada has received and processed refugees in addition to regular immigration claims. We have processes in place, and every member of the House assists in those processes in their constituency offices. My team has worked on over 1,500 immigration cases since we started on this work in 2015. Our government has put additional resources in place, and we are addressing these claims.
Fearmongering helps no one. Misinformation helps no one. It does not help Canadians and it does not help asylum seekers. It does not help us solve anything.
I wish the opposition would work with us to implement the steps we have taken and stop spreading misinformation. Sadly, I will not hold out hope for the party of barbaric cultural snitch lines, the party that says opposing Islamophobia is sharia law, the party that said “too many Syrian refugees”, the party that slashed funding to immigration services—which actually created the backlogs—and then turned around and suggested refugees and asylum seekers are the problem. Once again, the opposition would like to play politics; once again, our government is taking and will continue to take real action.
Our country is open and welcomes people who need protection. However, our government is committed to orderly immigration. We will continue to work closely with Quebec, the other provinces and territories, and various partners to resolve the irregular immigration issue and maintain the effectiveness of our refugee system.
We also wish to pursue Canada’s noble tradition of offering protection to people seeking refuge and to do so responsibly and effectively.
I would like to mention once more that I am happy to have been given the opportunity to participate in a debate on such an important issue.
Before I close, I think it is important to share an anecdote about people who are facing difficult circumstances in the United States. I looked in their eyes and said, “An irregular crossing puts you at risk of going back to Honduras or El Salvador or Haiti or the country that you first came from. You may have been in the United States for five, 10, 15, 20 years, but if you risk an irregular crossing as an asylum seeker and our processes do not honour that or do not allow you to seek asylum, you may be sent back—not to the country that you just came from, but to your original country of origin.”
That clear message was shared among human beings who just want to see people have decent lives, and it made an impact. Communities are mobilizing. The real truth about the asylum system is getting out.
It is our duty as members of the House of Commons to take that solemn responsibility seriously, to share the truth and the facts. There are other matters on which we can all play politics, but the lives of people seeking the basic dignity of a place to live and call home is not one of them.
I am honoured to share this debate by turning things over to my hon. colleague after questions.