It’s a phenomenon that has splintered the European Union, animated a surge in far-right politics across that continent and put German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s professional future at considerable risk: the uncontrolled flow of asylum-seekers from Middle Eastern and African nations. And for the first time in many years, Canadians are confronting it as well: last week, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) reported more than 400 people had illegally crossed the 49th parallel from North Dakota into Manitoba this fiscal year. With six weeks left to go in the year, that’s almost five times as many as crossed three years ago. In January alone, the RCMP reports 452 asylum claims were made at the border in Quebec, more than three times the year before.
Canadians do not seem particularly alarmed by this, and for good reason: the numbers are relatively small; the crossers are happy to report themselves to authorities; and the fact is, there’s not a hell of a lot we can do about it. On Thursday, La Presse reported the nearly comical scene of RCMP officers shouting at Omar, a 31-year-old Yemeni, that it was illegal for him to cross the border. Over he went, into handcuffs and the Canadian refugee determination process.