Tony Clement defends position after hanging up on radio interview
Tony Clement is still not explaining how he wants the Liberal government to amend its handling of an influx of refugee claimants entering Canada illegally.
Clement hung up on a radio interview Tuesday morning when the interviewer pressed him for details on his desire for the government to come up with a plan to deal with the increase in asylum seekers jumping the border.
In an interview with CTV Power Play host Don Martin, Clement repeated his call for a plan.
"We are calling for two things in particular. One, more resources, more money and funding, and human resources for the border agents and for the RCMP to deal with this much higher influx," Clement, the party's public safety critic, told Martin.
"Secondly, we want the federal government to develop a plan. What is the plan that is going to be employed or deployed to ensure that the rule of law continues in this country, that the laws are obeyed, that we don't have illegal crossings?"
Canada has seen an increase in the number of refugee claimants crossing the border near Emerson, Man. and near Hemmingford, Que., since U.S. President Donald Trump took office and tried to block entry to people from seven Muslim-majority countries.
Under the 2004 safe third country agreement, someone who has claimed refugee status in the U.S. can't make a claim in Canada, and vice versa. But the agreement is only applied at border crossings, not at rural points of entry to Canada where there is no official crossing.
Those who cross illegally are arrested by the RCMP and transported for interviews by the Canada Border Services Agency, then usually released until their Immigration and Refugee Board hearing.
Refugee advocates, as well as the NDP, are pressing the Liberal government to suspend the safe third country agreement until it's more clear how refugee claimants in the U.S. will be treated under the new administration. The Liberals have resisted those calls.
"They're crossing through a farmer's field which is snow-packed or they're crossing along a laneway from Vermont to Quebec," Clement said.
"This raises concerns for their own health and safety... at the same time we're saying our laws have to be enforced, and that's I think a simple request to make of the federal government. Make sure our laws are enforced properly and fairly and equally."
It's on that point that Clement stumbled in his interview with CBC Radio in Montreal. Pressed on what he meant when he said the government should apply Canadian law, Clement couldn't provide a specific recommendation. The host asked him more than a dozen times to describe what he felt the government or the RCMP should be doing, but Clement eventually hung up mid-question, leaving a dial tone as the only response to the host's query.
In his interview with CTV's Power Play, Clement said Canada has obligations once a refugee claimant crosses into the country.
"That's why I think that we need to beef up our ability to patrol our border at these areas where we're getting this problem," he said.
"This problem ain't going away. [The] weather's getting warmer, snow will be melting and so we will be dealing with this issue for months unless the government has a plan that can secure our borders and make sure the law is applied fairly and equally."