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"To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith," Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau tweeted January 28, 2017, and it appears that refugees in the United States, at least, are taking him seriously.
In Canada, there has been such an influx of refugees coming in from New York State into Quebec that a military contingent of about 100 personnel has been sent to Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Quebec—roughly five hours and 45 minutes from New York by car. The personnel are in the midst of putting up modular tenting, lights and heating, and according to the Op Lentus Canadian Forces page, up to 500 people could be accommodated in this fashion.
The sudden influx of refugees is believed to be as a result of fears that President Donald Trump could deport them back to their home countries, so the refugees have crossed at the Canadian border in order to try their luck in Canada. As soon as the modular tenting is installed, however, the deployed personnel will be returning back to their home base. Some might believe that the military is also being called in to help with any law enforcement issues that might crop up as a result of the surge in numbers in the Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle area.
“The Canadian Armed Forces will have no role in security matters,” said Canadian Army spokesperson Evan Koronewski. “Its staff will not participate in law enforcement tasks and will not assist civil authorities in the conduct of their law enforcement duties.”
In Montreal, which is not far from the developing tent city, the refugee crisis has been mounting to such an extent that the city's Olympic Stadium is being pressed into service to house refugees. Area schools are also preparing to see at least 14 percent more students in their classrooms, and fear that there may be even more to add to those numbers.
It's believed that the lion's share of refugees coming in across the border—estimated to total around 300 people a day—are of Haitian descent. Trump is apparently considering an order that would end "temporary protected status" that Haitians who immigrated to the United States following the 2010 earthquake have enjoyed.
In the first half of July, the numbers of individuals attempting a border crossing at the location that is now finding its resources stretched thin totalled 50 a day.
Montreal mayor Denis Coderre said that the city is continuing to determine where to adequately house this steady stream of refugees. Back in February, Quebec premier Philippe Couillard said he believed the stream of refugees would be a temporary issue, and that illegal entry into the country was still improper.
“Illegal entry is illegal entry and will remain illegal entry,” he noted. “I don’t expect this to be a long-term phenomenon. It’s associated with the current instability or unpredictability of certain policies south of us.”
A law enforcement official reportedly with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police told Daily Mail that there were struggles involved with the increasing numbers trying to make their way into the country.
"We don't see the numbers decreasing any time soon," the officer said. "We are here 24/7. It's a national security issue. In seven months or so when they get around to processing all these people, not all are going to be allowed to stay, so where will people go? They won't turn up for hearings, they will go underground."
Estimates are that nearly 1,100 people crossed the border at the unofficial crossing just throughout July alone, and it's believed that the facility designed to house 500 will soon give rise to a need for more. It's also believed by critics that Trudeau should do far more than he appears to have done in what appears to be a mounting crisis.
"Maybe less kayaking and hiking and more briefings from officials is in order," quipped Conservative Party deputy leader Lisa Raitt.
Indeed, the Canadian prime minister has been photographed recently falling out of a kayak at the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve near Victoria, British Columbia, and has in the past inadvertently photobombed a wedding while shirtless. While on the West Coast, Trudeau also toured the fire devastated lands around BC's Central Interior, which has been plagued by forest fires for weeks.
Executive director of the Haitian Diaspora Organization in Miami, Florida, Jude Metellus, told the CBC that he encouraged Haitian nationals to attempt a border crossing into Canada beyond the official ports of entry, given the current situation in the United States. Another cause of the sudden refugee influx is because of mixed messaging that the Haitian community is receiving through social media.
In spite of all of this, the Canadian Immigration and Citizenship Agency has cautioned those trying to cross at the border that what they are doing is a breach of the law.
"We are aware of irregular border crossings by individuals who request refugee protection upon arrival in Canada," the agency said via Facebook. "In some countries, messages have been circulating through channels such as WhatsApp which suggest that Canada is inviting individuals to seek refugee status here. In fact, the Government of Canada discourages people from entering Canada outside of designated ports of entry as it can be dangerous and is a violation of the law."
Trudeau's Twitter feed has maintained silence on the mounting crisis.