The influx of refugees from the United States into Canada made headlines in 2017 but the rush north hasn't subsidized even if the headlines have disappeared. The Daily Show with Trevor Noah decided to tell that story in 2018.
Desi Lydec took the audience to the most dominant crossing where 90% of the refugees are crossing: at the point about 25 miles (40 km) north of Plattsburgh, NY into Quebec.
The audience got to follow the exact path in the preferred form of transportation, the same way a lot of refugees get to the crossing. The visual was very enlightening.
Lydec points out that 70-80 people cross each day at the illegal point on a dead-end road. The number of overall refugees stands at 20,000 in 2017.
As the cab comes up to the border, Lydec jokes and asks if that is Toronto. Even the cab driver knows it's not Toronto. The crossing is near Hemmingford, Quebec, rather close to Montréal.
Lydec said since the spot has so many crossings, there is now a permanent presence that she refers to as the "world's largest birdhouse."
"This is not a legal point of entry into Canada. If you want to enter into Canada, you have to go through Canadian Customs." — from the police on the Canadian side. The segment points out that the officers are speaking Canadian.
Lydec identifies a quirk in Canadian law that requires the refugees to cross at a point that isn't a border crossing. The quirk comes in the Safe Third Country Agreement between the two countries that requires refugees to make a claim in the first country where they arrive.
According to the agreement, if a refugee is in the United States and then crosses into Canada, if that refugee crosses at an official border crossing, the refugee is automatically returned to the United States. Canadian law isn't preventing this; the Safe Third Country Agreement requires these tactics to get around the law.
Yes, the Daily Show is a comedy program but the U.S. audience needs to understand the role of its country as why this is happening.
Lydec takes the story like a jilted lover where America used to be the place where refugees would come and now that distinction goes to Canada. Or as Lydec puts it, "if mayonnaise was a country."
The show played a clip of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne welcoming Syrian refugees with Trudeau saying, "you're safe at home now." Lydec teasingly refers to Trudeau as Prime Minister Jon Snow from Game of Thrones.
When she talks to Armstrong from northeastern Nigeria, you get the impression that he understands that his family's best chance is Canada and not the United States. "America is a great country. But, with the way things are right now, we need a better life for ourselves," Armstrong said. "You're hoping for better things in Canada," Lydec replied. "Canada has opportunity," Armstrong said.
The Daily Show with Trevor Noah airs on Comedy Central in the United States as well as CTV and the Comedy Channel in Canada.
video and photo credit: The Daily Show with Trevor Noah