headshot of Laura Madokoro sin front of an out of focus stone wallHistory Professor Laura Madokoro was recently interviewed for The Agenda with Steve Paikin following the recent decision by the American and Canadian governments to amend their border agreement. You can watch the full episode, “How Changes to Border Rules Affect Canada and the U.S.” online.

She has also written two pieces for The Globe and Mail as well as The Conversation. Short excerpts of both articles are included below with the full articles available on the news outlets’ websites.

From The Globe and Mail opinion piece by Prof. Madokoro, “The U.S.-Canada deal maintains our tradition of dodging our responsibilities to refugees on our borders“:

In announcing an agreement that enables the Trudeau government to close down the unofficial border crossing at Roxham Road in Quebec, the governments of the United States and Canada are celebrating their efforts to manage migration. However, given historical and recent efforts to minimize responsibilities to migrants arriving at Canadian borders, it would be far more appropriate to worry that this is another attack on refugee rights.

The announced compromise, which involves both turning away refugees at unofficial points of entry and creating a special program to bring in 15,000 refugees from Central and South America, is bound to invite mixed responses. On the one hand, by maintaining the flawed Safe Third Country Agreement, which allows Canada to send refugee claimants back to the U.S., the governments of both countries are following worldwide trends. Signatories to the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees are finding new and creative ways to minimize their obligations to refugee claimants. For example, the British government is now sending some refugee claimants to Rwanda instead of hearing their claims in the United Kingdom.

On the other hand, introducing a special program for Central and South American migrants might be seen as a positive; something designed to help refugees who are fleeing known dangers in Venezuela and elsewhere.

The problem is that to be effective, such programs need to be adequately resourced and designed with the best of intentions. In recent years, we have seen a marked difference in how the federal government has responded to refugee situations around the world. For example, the implementation of a special refugee resettlement program for Afghanistan has been slow. Many people, most notably Afghan translators with ties to Canada, have been made vulnerable as a result.

From The Conversation article by Prof. Madokoro, “Justin Trudeau and Joe Biden are missing the bigger picture about migrant border crossings“:

When Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden announced unofficial border crossings were no longer exempt from the Safe Third Country Agreement — meaning migrants could be turned away — news reports documented the surprise and dismay of those who arrived at Roxham Road in Québec, a few hours past the deadline of midnight, March 25, 2023.

Migrants who crossed just hours before the new measures took effect, on the other hand, expressed relief to the media that they made it into Canada in time.

The media attention on these most recent attempts to cross the Canada-U.S. border helps the public understand what otherwise too often takes place on isolated rural roads and with little accountability. They shed some light on what is happening, but only some.

The issues at play at Roxham Road, on the Québec-New York border, are larger than any one single border crossing, official or otherwise. They are intimately connected to global political instability, economic equities, exploitation and the enduring question of a state’s capacity to be humanitarian when it is also in the business of managing migration.