(The Canadian Press)

Asylum seekers continue to cross Canada-U.S. border despite shutdown

It was not immediately clear how many of those who arrived in May were returned to the U.S

New statistics show 21 people were apprehended by the RCMP crossing into Canada from the U.S. in May, despite the shutdown of the border.

That’s up from just six who were stopped in April, the first full month the border was closed to nearly everything but essential travel in a bid by the two countries to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The border deal gave Canada the right to turn people back to the U.S. if they sought to claim asylum here.

It was not immediately clear how many of those who arrived in May were returned to the U.S., or how many were allowed to file for asylum under existing rules around who can file a refugee claim in Canada.

Since 2017, nearly 57,000 people have crossed the border between Canada and the U.S. using unofficial entry points so they are able to file for asylum.

They do so because of the Safe Third Country Agreement, which governs asylum claims between Canada and the U.S., and forbids most people from lodging a claim when they arrive at a formal border point.

The agreement is based on the premise that both Canada and the United States are safe and a refugee claimant should seek asylum in whichever of the two he or she enters first. It does not forbid applications from people who are already on Canadian soil, however.

The vast majority of claimants leaving the United States arrived in Quebec, and as they’ve awaited decisions on their claims, many have found work in health care.

With those positions now essential to the fight against COVID-19, the federal and Quebec governments are considering a program that could see asylum-seekers granted permanent residency.

A new study released this week by Statistics Canada highlights the oversized role newcomers to Canada play in the health sector.

Using data from the 2016 census — which wouldn’t capture the arrival of thousands of asylum-seekers since then — the agency found that year, 245,000 people were employed as nurses’ aides, orderlies and patient service associates in Canada.

Of them, more than a third — 87,925 — were immigrants.

By comparison, the agency said, immigrants represented less than 1 in 4 people in all other occupations.

The percentage of immigrants working in health care in cities was even more pronounced.

In Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary, over 70 per cent of nurses’ aides, orderlies and patient-service workers were immigrants, and the majority of those were women.

Statistics Canada pulled together the data as part of its effort to explore how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting different communities in different ways.

The intersection between immigrants and the health care sector was important to examine, the agency said in the introduction to its research.

“One of the issues immigrants and visible minority groups have been facing since the start of the pandemic is that many of them are essential workers, which puts them at higher risk of contracting COVID-19,” the introduction said.

“In particular, nurse aides, orderlies and patient-service associates were at higher risk of contracting COVID-19, especially those working in long-term care facilities in Quebec and Ontario. A number of workers in these occupations contracted the virus, which was an additional risk factor for their families and communities.”

The research also showed that certain communities within the broader pool are potentially more at risk.

In 2016, 30 per cent of immigrants working as nurse aides, orderlies and patient-service associates were Black, and 30 per cent were Filipino.

The main places of birth for immigrant workers in those occupations were Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and Bermuda and sub-Saharan Africa.

Of the population from the Caribbean, about half were born in Haiti.

Of those who have crossed into Canada from the U.S. since 2017 and filed for asylum, just over 9,000 are from Haiti.

Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

asylum refugeesCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Four activists face charges linked to 2019 Abbotsford hog-farm protest

Mischief and break-and-enter charges laid for incidents on four separate days prior to the protest

Three men face attempted murder charges after Harrison Hot Springs stabbing

Man, 24, sent to hospital with life-threatening injuries following attack Wednesday

‘Tiny home’ being built for Abbotsford woman with severe allergies

Online campaign raises $59,000 for custom cargo trailer for Katie Hobson

Chilliwack children can get tested locally, Fraser Health confirms

Erroneous information online and via 811 has many families driving to Abbotsford for testing

Face masks will be mandatory for customers at all Walmart locations

Requirement goes into effect on Wednesday, Aug. 12 across Canada

371 British Columbians battling COVID-19, health officials confirm

Thursday (Aug. 6) saw a second straight day of nearly 50 new confirmed cases

Answers to 5 common questions facing families for the COVID-19 school year

COVID-19 protocols are likely to vary even more at the school board level, and even and school-to-school.

Visitors and non-residents entering closed remote B.C. First Nation’s territories

With limited resources, they say they don’t have any authority or power to enforce the closures

UBC loses appeal on Fisheries Act convictions

BC Supreme Court upholds order to pay $1.55-million fine

Masks to be mandatory on BC Transit, TransLink starting Aug. 24

Both BC Transit and TransLink made the announcement in separate press releases on Thursday

Acclaimed B.C. actor Brent Carver passes away

Carver, one of Canada’s greatest actors with a career spanning 40 years, passed away at home in Cranbrook

B.C. would not send students back to school if there was ‘overwhelming risk’: Horgan

Plan has left many parents across the province worried about their children’s safety

Canucks blank Wild 3-0, take series lead in penalty-filled NHL qualifying clash

Jacob Markstrom stops 27 shots to lead Vancouver past Minnesota

Most Read