Former federal Green Party leader and local MP Elizabeth May says Canada should prepare to assist third-country refugees from the United States. (Black Press Media File) Former federal Green Party leader and local MP Elizabeth May says Canada should keep its borders with the United States closed for non-essential travel. (Black Press Media File).

Elizabeth May says opening border with U.S. would pose health risk to Canadians

Green Party MP wants Canada to assist refugees from the United States

Vancouver Island MP Elizabeth May echoes calls to keep the US-Canada border closed, while calling on the Canadian government to prepare for helping refugees from the United States.

“The U.S. is in a terrible situation and if we were to lift our border restrictions that exist right now, in other words, if we were to have heavy tourist traffic from the United States, that would be a public health risk in Canada,” she said in an interview with the Peninsula News Review.

May made that comment when asked about comments that appear in a newsletter sent to local Green Party of Canada members, in which she says that the U.S. “now poses a real danger” to Canada. “Keeping our border closed for all but essential traffic really matters,” it reads. “It would not be wise to pick a fight with this infantile bully and risk the health of Canadians in doing so.”

She made these comments within the context of ongoing criticism from Canadian politicians of U.S. President Donald Trump over his handling of protests and issues of racial justice following the death of George Floyd and subsequent murder charge against a Minneapolis police officer who kneeled on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes.

May said she has not joined other opposition politicians in “taking shots” at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for his criticism — or apparent lack thereof — of Trump because of the larger public health issue. “I don’t think that would be wise,” she said. “I can say things as parliamentary leader of a small political trip, but I don’t want the prime minister to be attacking Trump.”

The status of the Canada-US border is not a unilateral decision that requires “a degree of cooperation and skillful negotiations,” she said.

May’s comments, both to the PNR and in the newsletter, came before Canada and the United States agreed to extend their ban on non-essential cross-border travel until late July. Both countries had first agreed to close their border to all but essential traffic in March, with the closure coming into effect on March 20. This closure, initially scheduled for 30 days, extended until May 21 in April, only to be extended again in May until June 21.

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May also addressed comments in the newsletter that eerily echo the early 1930s, when she writes that “[we] must be prepared to assist refugees from the U.S.”

May said she was not suggesting that Canada should prepare for a flood of citizens from the United States because of that country’s current political turmoil. She said she was specifically speaking about individuals from other countries who were making a refugee claim in Canada, while entering from the United States. Canada and the United States currently recognize each as a safe third country under a bilateral agreement. “For years now, at our borders and legitimate points of entry, we have been forced to turn away people from Honduras, or Nigeria, or wherever, but for this notion that the United States is a safe third country.”

May said the federal government “should review this and remove” the safe third safe country provision. “In light of what is going on right now, I really do think it is time.”

When asked more broadly about the level of political turmoil that May expects, she said that she does not want to be alarmist at this point. “I don’t know that we will expect political turmoil, and I’m not talking about U.S. citizens who want to flee to Canada. At this point, things in the U.S. are plenty unstable, but I’m not predicting that the United States will take on the status of Weimar Germany. Let’s hope democracy pulls itself together in the United States and things get stabilized.”

From May’s perspective, it is encouraging to see prominent Republicans and former military leaders push back against Trump. “At this point, it’s a constitutional challenge in the United States, not yet a constitutional crisis.”

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