News Release

Asylum seekers at US borders need an intergovernmental policy response

November 10, 2020 Print

Montreal — Over the past three years, the RCMP intercepted close to 60-thousand asylum seekers crossing into Canada irregularly. Many applied for refugee status. Although hotspots like Roxham Road in Quebec are now quiet because of COVID-19, municipal, provincial and federal governments should ready themselves for an uptick  in entries and subsequent refugee claims — even after the defeat of Donald Trump and the election of Joe Biden in the United States. Now is the time to fundamentally change the way all levels of government have been responding to the issue.

In a new study published by the IRPP’s Centre of Excellence on the Canadian Federation, researchers Mireille Paquet (Concordia University) and Robert Schertzer (University of Toronto) see this as a complex intergovernmental problem; one that spans boundaries and challenges current modes and venues of intergovernmental relations. They lay out four recommendations on how to manage the problem:

  1. Improve federal funding to help cover provincial costs associated with the support and integration of asylum seekers;
  2. Clarify the responsibilities of each level of government and how they can continue to work together on this file;
  3. Create a permanent, intergovernmental forum where cities can be partners in the planning and policy development on immigration issues; and,
  4. Explore new ways to settle asylum seekers across different regions of Canada.

“The lessons learned from Canada’s response to this episode of irregular border crossings should serve as a foundation for reforms to the intergovernmental system. Action in these four areas should help ensure that Canada’s intergovernmental relations system is better prepared to manage future flows of irregular border crossers seeking asylum in Canada,” Paquet and Schertzer note.

Irregular Border Crossings and Asylum Seekers in Canada: A Complex Intergovernmental Problem, by Mireille Paquet and Robert Schertzer, can be downloaded from the website of the Centre of Excellence on the Canadian Federation (

The Institute for Research on Public Policy is an independent, national, bilingual, not-for-profit organization based in Montreal. To receive updates from the IRPP, please subscribe to our e‑mail list.

Media contact: Cléa Desjardins, tel. 514-245-2139

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