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Seventy per cent of Conservative voters say government should not let illegal asylum seekers stay in Canada: Forum poll

By Rachel Aiello      

Respondents from western provinces were the most-opposed to the notion of allowing illegal asylum-seekers to stay, while the majority of New Democrat and Liberal voters surveyed want to see them remain in Canada, the results of the survey show.

Conservative leadership candidates Kellie Leitch and Kevin O'Leary have both pushed for tighter immigration policies. The Hill Times photographs by Jake Wright
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Seventy per cent of Conservative voters surveyed said the Canadian government should not allow asylum seekers, including those who have been crossing into Manitoba with growing frequency, to stay in the country, according to data compiled by Forum Research and exclusively provided to The Hill Times.

Out of all respondents who were asked whether the federal government should allow asylum seekers to remain in Canada after entering illegally, those who identified as Conservative supporters were the most opposed.

Among the identified Conservative Party supporters who were surveyed, 70 per cent responded that the federal government should not allow asylum seekers who have entered Canada illegally to remain in the country. The majority of Liberal and NDP voters responded that they should be allowed to remain in Canada, with 51 per cent of Liberal and 54 per cent of New Democrat voters saying yes.

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Overall, 36 per cent of Canadians said yes, while 44 per cent said no.

The results of the poll were released after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) and his ministers spent a portion of their weekly cabinet meeting Tuesday on Parliament Hill being briefed by the RCMP and Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officials on the topic as the federal government works to develop a plan for handling a rising numbers of asylum seekers coming into Canada, according to a report from the Canadian Press.

Over the last few months, there have been reports from the Manitoba RCMP about a surge in the number of people illegally crossing the Canada-U.S. border in Emerson, Man., which neighbours North Dakota. Some asylum seekers have told CBC News that U.S. President Donald Trump’s now-revised executive order banning immigrants and visitors from Muslim-majority countries is the reason for their illegal entry.

“The images of people illegally crossing the border into Canada has brought the issue of asylum and refugee claimants to the forefront of the public’s attention,” said Forum Research president Lorne Bozinoff in an email.

These public opinion results also come at a time when some Conservative leadership candidates continue to push for tougher immigration policies and so-called ‘Canadian values’ test, most notably, Kellie Leitch’s (Simcoe-Grey, Ont.) call for face-to-face interviews with all immigrants, refugees and visitors to Canada. As well, Conservative leadership candidate Kevin O’Leary, who said on March 6 in a series of tweets that those who are illegally crossing Canada’s border from the U.S. are exploiting a “loophole,” and proposed to close the exemption to Canada’s safe-third-country rule, which states that refugees must make their asylum claim in the first country they land in, unless they enter into Canada via an illegal crossing. Mr. O’Leary has also taken issue with what he referred to as the “sneaks,” who enter Canada illegally and said he wants to remove their ability to claim welfare while their case is being processed.

“Like my family, and so many of you, people need to apply through our immigration stream, not jump the queue by crossing illegally,” Mr. O’Leary tweeted on Monday.

In an email to supporters Tuesday afternoon, Ms. Leitch said those coming into Manitoba have “swamped” the town and went on to say: “Those who don’t respect our immigration process should be detained, interrogated, and returned.”

Conservative Ted Falk (Provencher, Man.), the MP who represents the area where a significant number of these illegal crossings are happening, said in a Facebook video posted on his MP page and filmed in Emerson, that the crossing are abusing Canada’s “very generous immigration and refugee policies.”

In the video, Mr. Falk questions Mr. Trudeau’s current message of welcoming refugees as being an “open invitation for folks that want to illegally cross into Canada.”

According to the Forum Research poll, those who were most opposed to allowing asylum seekers staying after entering illegally are Canadians aged 55-64, as 53 per cent of that demographic said no, while 40 per cent of people aged 18-34 said the government should let them remain in Canada. Of those surveyed, 52 per cent of those who said the Canadian government should not let these illegal asylum-seekers stay were men. By comparison, 42 per cent of women said they should be allowed to stay.

Atlantic Canada was the only region of the country that had a higher number of respondents who said that asylum seekers should be allowed to stay rather than being forced to leave. Some 38 per cent of Atlantic Canadians said they should be allowed to stay.

A majority of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta respondents said that the government should not allow them to stay. In Manitoba and Saskatchewan, 53 per cent of respondents held that belief, while 54 per cent of Albertans did.

The opinion that they shouldn’t be allowed to stay was also most popular among both Canadians who make between $80,000 and $100,000 annually (50 per cent); and Canadians who had a secondary school education, or less (51 per cent). In contrast, those with post-graduate degrees (46 per cent) and those who earn between $100,000 and $250,000 annually (51 per cent) were supportive of having the asylum seekers stay in Canada.

The survey also asked if Canada should accept refugees who made refugee claims in the United States, but now want to live in Canada, and once again, Conservative voters were the ones most against the idea, with 73 per cent saying no.

Sixty-two per cent of Liberal supporters said the refugees should be allowed to live in Canada, as did 63 per cent of those who identified as New Democrat voters.

Overall, 44 per cent of respondents said they should not be allowed, while 43 per cent said they should.

Over the weekend, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale (Regina-Wascana, Sask.) was in Emerson to announce the federal government’s $30,000 contribution for the first responders who are helping the community with the influx of border crossers.

“The municipality of Emerson-Franklin and its emergency workers have stepped up to help asylum seekers in their community in the last months. We are grateful for their generosity and goodwill in dealing with the situation,” said Mr. Goodale in a statement on the funding announcement.

Speaking to reporters in the House of Commons foyer on Tuesday, Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Minister Ahmed Hussen (York South-Weston, Ont.) said the government is committed to secure borders.

“Our officials are working around the clock to make sure that we maintain the integrity of our borders while remaining a compassionate country. When folks get on our soil, we have an obligation to at least give them a fair hearing, and if their case is—after being assessed on its merits—if it’s found that their case lacks merit, there is removal processes in place to remove them from Canada,” said Mr. Hussen.

The telephone poll was conducted between Feb. 24 and Feb. 26 sample size for the survey was 1,340 people, with a margin of error of plus or minus three per cent, 19 times out of 20. The results were weighted based on Census data.

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