Along the snowy highways of the Canada/US border, Ian Willms met countless asylum seekers from various countries in Africa, South America and Central America. Each one had a different horrific story of terror and violence that had driven them to this frigid, barren landscape in the middle of nowhere. Some were fleeing from active conflict zones.
Others were persecuted for their sexual orientation, religion or political activism. Most had already filed refugee claims in the US, but feared the rising tide of institutionalized racism in Trump’s America. Many hope that Canada will be the last stop on an underground railroad that spans nine or more countries.
The Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the US means that asylum seekers who have already given up everything to make it to North America have to risk their lives one more time in order to illegally enter our country.
Based in Toronto, Ian Willms is a founding member of the Boreal Collective and is represented commercially by NAMARA. He works in Canada and internationally as a freelance photojournalist, contributing to The New York Times, The International New York Times, Harper’s, TIME, The New Yorker, The Guardian Magazine and The Globe and Mail, among others. Willms holds an Honours Diploma in Photojournalism from Loyalist College and is an alumni of the Reportage by Getty Images Emerging Talent mentorship.