(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

WATCH: Gas line struck in downtown Vernon

Firefighters, police on scene near 32nd Avenue — more to come

Vernon beer baseball league begins 2020 season

Okanagan Spring League welcomes expansion Rutland 67s, who open with two straight wins

Camp Day pours ahead at Tim Hortons despite COVID-19

All coffee and iced coffee sales, and bracelet purchases support sending kids to camp

Grindrod Garlic Festival shifts online

The 11th annual festival will run virtually from Aug. 16 to Sept. 15

UPDATE: Westside fire under control

Small blaze burning near Vernon in Six Mile area

Teachers to get 2 extra days to prepare for students’ return, now set for Sept. 10

Students will first start with orientation and learn rules of COVID-19 classroom policies

Highway 97 upgrade option for Peachland faces 20-year delay

Peachland council disappointed by highways department decision

Kelowna Hells Angels prospect charged with assault, choking

Jason Townsend, 43, was charged after allegedly choking a woman last weekend

B.C. to hire 500 more COVID-19 contact tracers ahead of fall

Contract tracers add an ‘extra layer’ in the fight against the novel coronavirus

Summerland council to examine meeting options

Present livestreaming has been plagued with sound quality issues

Feds commit $305M in additional funds for Indigenous communities during COVID-19

Money can be used to battle food insecurity and support children and mental health

Floating concert to shake Shuswap Lake

Pair of bands booked to play floating concert at the Sea Store on Sept. 5

Hobo Cannabis renamed Dutch Love after backlash

Hobo Cannabis has various locations in Vancouver, Kelowna and Ottawa

Man accused of killing Red Deer doctor says he does not remember attack

Appearing before a judge, Deng Mabiour, 54, rambled about being sick and needing a doctor

Most Read