Reality check: Immigration minister says Quebec not dealing with ‘mass arrival’ of asylum seekers

In News by MIIC

Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, holds a news conference in Ottawa. Fred Chartrand/CP

OTTAWA — Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen was warned by his officials that irregular crossings across the Canadian border could be on the rise this summer, which would require him to rethink the way the Liberal government is handling the situation.

But the minister said what his officials were talking about in the briefing note, which the CBC obtained under the Access to Information Act, was not the increased stream of asylum seekers crossing into Quebec from the United States in the last few weeks, but a “mass arrival” scenario.

“They were talking generally there about a much, much higher mass arrival situation – not what we’re dealing with. What we’re dealing with is definitely a very high, steady increase of numbers and it is obviously taxing our agencies and our borders, but we are able to redeploy resources and personnel as needed and able to deal with the situation as it unfolds,” Hussen said on CBC’s The House on Sunday.

Are the asylum-seekers in Quebec really outside the realm of massive, irregular arrivals as the minister suggests?

Spoiler alert: The Canadian Press Baloney Meter is a dispassionate examination of political statements culminating in a ranking of accuracy on a scale of “no baloney” to “full of baloney” (complete methodology below).

This one earns a rating of “no baloney.”


The previous Conservative government encountered a scenario in 2010 when the MV Sun Sea, a ship carrying 492 Tamil migrants who intended to claim refugee status, was intercepted off the B.C. coast. Another vessel, the MV Ocean Lady, had arrived with 76 Sri Lankan migrants the year before.

The Conservative government responded with a crackdown on so-called irregular arrivals, including legislation aimed at helping them respond more quickly – and more aggressively – should the situation happen again.

If today’s government considers the asylum seekers in Quebec part of a mass arrival, it could use that legislation to respond – but the provisions are widely considered to be a blunt instrument.

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