Lisee's border fence comments draw fire from all sides
Parti Quebecois leader Jean-Francois Lisee’s suggestion that the province should build a fence alongside a border crossing popular with asylum seekers drew widespread condemnation in the National Assembly on Thursday.
“It fuels the idea that Quebec is under some kind of invasion by asylum seekers and it’s not the case,” said Quebec Solidaire spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois.
The Roxham Rd. crossing has been among the most trafficked sites for asylum seekers crossing into Quebec from the United States. Last month, Quebec Immigration Minister David Heurtel said the number of asylum seekers entering the province from the U.S. tripled to 6,074 this year, up from about 2,000 at the same time last year.
Quebec Solidaire tabled a motion to formally oppose building walls at borders, gaining the support of the Liberals and CAQ. The motion died when the PQ rejected it.
Lisee defended his comment, saying the fence would send a message to those seeking to enter the province outside the standard immigration system.
“Roxham Rd. should not be the place where asylum seekers go,” he said. “How do we tell the last strays who will go there? Well, we’re going to have to build something there.”
When asked who would pay for it, Lisee jokingly replied “the Mexicans,” a reference to American President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
Nadeau-Dubois called out Lisee’s humorous tone, calling it “disturbing.”
“It’s a serious situation. We’re talking about people putting their lives in danger to cross the border,” he said. “It’s not the Just For Laughs festival.”
Lisee later backtracked from the fence suggestion, tweeting that the area could be blocked off by a sign, hedge or police officer.
Coalition Avenir Quebec MNA Jean-Francois Roberge joined Nadeau-Dubois in criticizing the PQ leader.
“I can’t explain what’s in the head of Mr. Lisee,” he said. “I don’t think it’s really possible.”
Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said that he would let Lisee explain his own positions.
- With files from The Canadian Press