(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

Castlegar emergency service group looking for volunteers

Volunteers work with both the provincial emergency service program and the Red Cross.

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 27 to Oct. 3

World Farm Animals Day, Drink Beer Day and Virus Appreciation Day are all coming up this week

Two new COVID-19 cases reported in Interior Health

The total number of Interior Health cases since the beginning of the pandemic is now at 522

Cobra Stairs in Castlegar reopen to public

A tree fell on the roof of the stairs earlier this month

West Kootenay mother searching for son missing since Sept. 1

Police are investigating the disappearance of Cory Westcott

QUIZ: Do you know what’s on TV?

Fall is normally the time when new television shows are released

Canadian ski resorts wrestle with pandemic-vs.-profit dilemma as COVID-19 persists

Few are actually restricting the total number of skiers they allow on the hill

Victoria-area RCMP locate high-risk sex offender thanks to help of taxi cab driver

Scott Jones wanted on a Canada-wide warrant, ‘a risk to women and girls,’ police say

A (virtual) walk around the world by 88-year-old B.C. man

George Doi says it’s simple: ‘I like walking’

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

End of CERB means uncertainty for some, new system for others

As of a week ago, the CERB had paid out $79.3 billion to 8.8 million people

Horgan, Wilkinson trade barbs over MSP premiums, health care at campaign stops

Horgan called a snap election for Oct. 24 earlier this week

Most Read