MP Peter Schiefke appointed to border security file by Prime Minister Trudeau


THE JOURNAL FILE PHOTO/JAMES ARMSTRONG

Vaudreuil-Soulanges MP Peter Schiefke (right) will continue his duties as Parliamentary Secretary for Youth in addition to his new role in border security.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed Vaudreuil-Soulanges MP Peter Schiefke as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction, the Honourable Bill Blair. Schiefke’s office made the announcement on Friday, August 31.

“It’s a brand new ministry,” Schiefke told The Journal

, “and Blair is an excellent choice and well suited for the position. He’s a results-oriented sort of minister.” Schiefke said he had met with Blair the previous day to begin looking at the responsibilities of the file. “We've had to clear my agenda for the next three weeks so I can concentrate on getting to know the resources,” said Schiefke. “We have a lot of work to do in the coming year,” he added referring to the upcoming federal election in 2019.

Minister Bill Blair

Blair was elected as a Member of Parliament for Scarborough Southwest riding in Ontario in 2015 after a 39-year career with the Toronto Police Force that culminated in 10 years as its Chief of Police. He also serves as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General of Canada. He said the PM had called him Tuesday, August 21 to thank him for his work as Parliamentary Secretary for Youth and that he (the PM) felt Schiefke could handle the new portfolio, particularly in Québec.

In addition to his new post, Schiefke will continue to serve as Parliamentary Secretary for Youth to the Prime Minister and maintain his work in the riding of Vaudreuil-Soulanges.

“I’m ready for it, my family is ready for it,” said Schiefke in response to the announcement. “It will mean spending more time in Ottawa when the minister is not there to respond to opposition questions during Question Period in the House of Commons.”

Asylum seekers

“There are definitely some challenges clearing up misinformation that has been circulating regarding what is actually happening on the border with asylum seekers,” said Schiefke. He said the situation with asylum seekers is being well managed by the federal government and there is a process to handle the situation. “There are basically two ways for asylum seekers to come into Canada,” he said. Individuals coming into Canada through an official checkpoint have the option of declaring themselves asylum seekers to a service agent and the process would begin.

Non-official border crossings by asylum seekers, such as those that have happened in Quebec, are treated differently. Once the individual has crossed the border into Canada, they are arrested and detained by the RCMP. Following the arrest procedure, they are taken to the nearest Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) point of entry.

“We do not have jurisdiction over asylum seekers until they cross the border,” Schiefke said. “What we have control over is what we do with them after.”

The CBSA carries out security checks, health checks, and determines if the person is eligible to make an asylum claim. If they are deemed inadmissible or ineligible, they are not allowed to enter Canada. If they are deemed eligible, they proceed to a hearing at the Immigration and Refugee Board. If they are rejected by the board, they do not enter Canada. If they are accepted, they are given Protected Person Status.

According to the statistics provided by Schiefke’s office, the current situation is that 65 million people have been forcibly displaced around the globe, and that there are – on average – 20,000 asylum claims in Canada every year. However, the statistics show two significant bumps, the first in 2001 during the tenure of President George W. Bush when 44,695 asylum claims were made in Canada. The second significant increase happened in 2017 with the election of President Donald Trump and the numbers rose to 49,775.

Federal government reaction

Schiefke said the federal government has invested $173.2 million in frontline security and that background checks include using biometrics such as facial recognition to confirm identities. The federal government continues to work closely with their partners in the United States to cross-reference databases to ensure that no asylum seeker poses a threat.

He also said 14,000 work permits were issued to asylum seekers in Quebec to minimize their reliance on social services.

“We also looked at how to reduce the number of asylum seekers in the long-term,” said Schiefke. The solution was to send government officials, including three Members of Parliament, to key communities in the United States and Africa to speak with potential migrant communities in their language.

“We were trying to get the message out that if you come to Canada as an asylum seeker, the chances are that you will be refused,” said Schiefke.

In 2016, 56 per cent of asylum claims were refused and 90 percent of claims from Haitian nationals were rejected because they didn’t meet the criteria.

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