Biden, Trudeau to announce agreement on border migration

President Joe Biden arrived in Canada on Thursday with a focus on big global issues. The two nations are also expected to announce an agreement on migration on Friday that will allow both countries to turn away migrants seeking asylum at their borders.

Andrew Harnik/AP
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden pose for photos with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, at Rideau Cottage, March 23, 2023, in Ottawa, Canada. This is Mr. Biden's first visit to Canada since he became president.

President Joe Biden arrived in Canada on Thursday for talks with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on several of the world’s most difficult challenges: the war in Ukraine, climate change, trade, mass migration, and an increasingly assertive China.

Two important agreements appeared to be in hand before Mr. Biden even departed Washington. Canada will escalate its timeline for military upgrades to the North American Aerospace Defense Command, and the two nations have reached an agreement to update rules for migrants seeking asylum, according to U.S. and Canadian officials. The officials were not authorized to comment publicly and requested anonymity.

Trade between the U.S. and Canada totaled an estimated record of $950 billion (Canadian $1.3 trillion) in 2022. Each day, about 400,000 people cross the world’s longest international border, and about 800,000 Canadian citizens live in the United States. There is close cooperation on defense, border security, and law enforcement, and a vast overlap in culture, traditions, and pastimes.

The visit comes as the Biden administration has made strengthening its relationship with Canada a priority over the past two years. Both sides see the meetings in the capital of Ottawa as an opportunity to set plans for the future.

The broadened focus of Mr. Biden’s visit represents an evolution of a friendship between the two countries that exceeds 150 years. The emphasis had more frequently been on issues like trade that had defined relations between the two countries.

“This visit is about taking stock of what we’ve done, where we are, and what we need to prioritize for the future,” said John Kirby, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council. “We’re going to talk about our two democracies stepping up to meet the challenges of our time.”

National security

National security and air defenses are top of mind after a Chinese spy balloon last month traversed North America before being shot down over the coast of South Carolina. A U.S. fighter jet later shot down an unidentified flying object in Canadian airspace. Canada plans to update its radar systems and has agreed to an accelerated timeline for spending billions more on military upgrades for NORAD, which monitors the skies above the continent, according to a senior Canadian government official.

Canada announced last year it is investing $3.8 billion (Canadian $4.9 billion) over the next six years to modernize NORAD radar systems and billions more years later, but David Cohen, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, has said the current threat climate calls for quicker investment.

The British, Australians, and Japanese are all investing more in defense given the threats posed by Beijing and Moscow, and the U.S. expects its northern neighbor to do its part.

Canada has long faced calls to increase its defense spending to 2% of its gross domestic product, the agreed-upon target by NATO members. Ottawa spends about 1.2% now. Canada announced in January it will purchase 88 F-35 fighter jets but at the time of the announcement said the first four won’t arrive for another three years.

The U.S. is also pushing Canada to lead an international force in Haiti, but Canada’s top military official has suggested the country doesn’t have the capacity.

Migrants seeking asylum

The migration deal eliminates a loophole under existing rules that will allow both countries to turn away asylum-seekers at the countries’ borders. The loophole resulted in thousands of migrants annually crossing into Canada from the U.S. at a non-official checkpoint, enabling them to stay in the country as they seek asylum instead of letting the process play out while staying in the U.S.

A quirk in a 2002 agreement between the U.S. and Canada says people seeking asylum must apply in the first country they arrive in. Migrants who go to an official crossing are returned to the U.S. and told to apply there. But those who arrive in Canada at a location other than a port of entry are allowed to stay and request protection, as has been happening on Roxham Road between Champlain, New York, and Quebec.

More than 39,000 claims were filed in 2022 by people who were intercepted by Canadian police, the vast majority of them in Quebec and at Roxham Road.

As part of the agreement, Canada is expected to announce that 15,000 migrants from the Western Hemisphere will be given slots to apply to enter the country, according to a Canadian official.

The new policy applies to people without U.S. or Canadian citizenship who are caught within 14 days of crossing the border between the two countries. Mr. Biden and Mr. Trudeau did not respond to questions from reporters about the agreement when the president and first lady Jill Biden arrived for a private gathering at the prime minister’s residence. A formal announcement on migration is expected on Friday.

Support for Ukraine

There will still be an emphasis on trade, yet Canada and the U.S. see their partnership as crucial in supporting Ukraine against Russia’s invasion, reducing their dependence on Chinese goods, and shifting toward cleaner energy sources amid the planetary damage caused by burning fossil fuels.

The leaders are also expected to discuss tapping critical minerals that will enable the production of electric vehicles, as well as military and economic commitments at a moment that observers say is the most dangerous since World War II. Chinese leader Xi Jinping this week visited Russian President Vladimir Putin, pledging to deepen China and Russia’s economic ties in ways that could help fund Mr. Putin’s ongoing war to take Ukraine.

Mr. Biden has addressed Canada’s Parliament, and Mr. Trudeau will host him for a state dinner Friday evening. It is Mr. Biden’s first visit to Canada since he became president, but Mr. Trudeau also gave Mr. Biden a state dinner when he was vice president in December 2016, just before Donald Trump took office.

This story was reported by The Associated Press. AP writer Colleen Long in Washington contributed to this report.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Biden, Trudeau to announce agreement on border migration
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today