OTTAWA, Ontario – Canada's public safety minister said Friday after meeting with U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly that both countries have resolved to gather "hard facts" about a recent influx of would-be refugees into Canada.
Ralph Goodale told reporters that the critical thing is to make sure officials develop a complete and detailed picture on both sides of the border about what is happening.
Emergency responders and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are struggling to deal with people crossing the undefended border between Emerson, Manitoba, and Pembina, North Dakota, in harsh winter weather.
"Who are the people who are involved in this migration? Where did their journey begin from?" Goodale said at a news conference. "How long have they been in or transiting through the United States?"
Goodale and other Canadian Cabinet members met with Kelly in Ottawa to talk about the border, trade and justice issues.
Kelly is the first member of President Donald Trump's Cabinet to visit Canada, underscoring the importance each country places on continental security.
Goodale said earlier this week that he would use the meeting to press Kelly for information on the risky movement of migrants into Canada in the dead of winter.
The recent surge of newcomers is just one of several thorny border-related issues.
The Nexus trusted-traveler cards of about 200 Canadian permanent residents were suddenly cancelled after Trump issued an initial executive immigration order banning visitors from seven predominantly Muslim countries. A revised but largely similar version of the order was introduced this week after the first one ran into judicial roadblocks.
There have also been several recent reports about minorities being turned away at the U.S. border.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday that his Liberal Party government had been working with the Trump administration "to ensure that Canadians' rights are respected and that we continue to have the smooth flow of goods, services and people back and forth across our border."
At the same time, it is the right of a country to decide who crosses its border, Trudeau added.
Canada's privacy czar, meanwhile, is calling on federal ministers to ask their U.S. counterparts to strengthen privacy protections for Canadians.
In a letter to Cabinet members, including Goodale, privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien says Canada should be added to a list of designated countries under the Judicial Redress Act passed by the U.S. Congress last year.
Another recent executive order from Trump excluded non-U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents from the protections of the U.S. Privacy Act when it comes to personally identifiable information. Therrien says Canadians expressed concern to his office about Trump's January order.
Therrien concluded that Canadians have some privacy protection in the United States, but that protection is fragile because it relies mainly on administrative agreements that do not have the force of law.