Ontario asks Trudeau for resources to address influx of asylum seekers

About 800 refugee claimants and asylum seekers are staying in Toronto college residences

Just a week after Doug Ford took office, the rift between his new Tory government and Justin Trudeau’s federal Liberals appears to be growing as they verbally spar over funding for refugees and asylum seekers in the province.

On Friday, the Ontario government said it faces a “looming crisis” next month if Ottawa doesn’t help find space for refugees and asylum seekers currently sheltered in college dorms.

Lisa MacLeod, provincial minister in charge of immigration, urged Trudeau to commit federal resources to relieve overcrowding in Toronto’s shelter system.

About 800 refugee claimants and asylum seekers are staying in Toronto college residences that must be vacated on Aug. 9 before students return to campus.

“Those college dormitories are for students who are returning in the fall,” MacLeod said. ”That space will be needed. … This is something that is very urgent. It is pressing. We have a looming crisis.”

MacLeod said she has submitted a request for funding and a list of federally owned spaces in the city where the people could be housed.

The federal government has so far offered $11 million in funding to the province, but MacLeod said that will cover a fraction of the costs incurred in Toronto alone.

“What I’m simply saying to the federal government (is), you have resources, you have assets in the city of Toronto, you’re going to need to use those,” she said. ”We’re at capacity now.”

But Ottawa appeared to show signs Friday it may not hand over the millions in funding if Ontario isn’t a “willing partner” on the immigration file.

“That money was earmarked to deal with immediate housing pressures,” said Mathieu Genest, press Secretary for federal Minister Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen. “We will need to make sure that Ontario’s a willing partner before that money flows just to make sure that that money is actually going to support the things we need it to support.”

Genest said the federal government is aware of the Aug. 9 deadline and will help the City of Toronto.

2 years later: Most Syrian refugees settling well in B.C., report says

“There’s a number of options that could end up being the final one that is selected,” he said. ”We’re working with Toronto to make sure that we have a plan in place to deal with that situation.”

MacLeod’s comments come a day after Premier Doug Ford said Trudeau had put a strain on local and provincial services by encouraging foreigners to come to Canada illegally.

Ford issued a statement just before his first meeting with Trudeau on Thursday, saying the federal government should foot 100 per cent of the bill for resettling the newcomers.

MacLeod repeated Friday that she thinks there has been “irresponsibility on the part of the federal government” by inviting “illegal” border crossing but declined to offer alternatives.

“I am not going to provide Justin Trudeau with solutions,” she said. ”He has a government that he can run, and he can choose to work us or he can choose to work against us.”

Meanwhile, a group of refugee advocates co-signed a statement Friday afternoon urging the Ontario government to stay engaged in “intergovernmental collaboration” on the refugee and asylum seeker issue.

“Ontario has called on the federal government to cover the costs of refugee resettlement. If they really want the province and municipalities to be compensated they must be at the table” said Francisco Rico-Martinez of the Ontario Coalition of Service Providers for Refugee Claimants. “It is inhumane to risk making refugee claimants homeless to make a political statement. It is in violation of our international obligations and tradition, and Canadian values of social justice and human rights.”

Monica Boyd, a University of Toronto sociology professor who studies immigration, said the issue has always been a point of conflict between the federal government and the provinces and this is just the latest example.

“There’s a fundamental tension between who makes the policy and where people go,” she added.

Boyd said Canada, and its provinces, have been long-standing co-signators to international agreements which give asylum seekers legal rights.

“Canada does indeed have an obligation that goes back 50 years and it has always been a leader in the notion that refugee claimants do have certain rights,” she said.

Earlier Friday, Toronto Mayor John Tory said municipalities across Ontario have offered to help handle the influx of asylum seekers, saying they have jobs available for refugee claimants and asylum seekers.

Tory meet with Trudeau on Friday morning to discuss the issue.

In a radio interview before the meeting, the prime minister condemned leaders who engage in anti-migrant rhetoric.

“Unfortunately conservative politicians here and around the world are playing a very dangerous game with something that shouldn’t be fodder for division,” Trudeau said on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning.

“Canadians are supportive of immigration and accepting refugees. They need to be reassured, as they can be, that we have a system in place that is going through all the processes.”

Meanwhile, some of those tasked with helping to house the newcomers say the disagreement between Ottawa and Ontario over the issue has left them in limbo.

Sojourn House, a Toronto shelter, launched a program to resettle families in March due to demand, said its executive director, Debbie Hill-Corrigan.

Hill-Corrigan said she’s now unsure whether the provincial government will continue to support the program as part of a three-year agreement signed with the previous administration.

The shelter has been operating at capacity since November 2017, she said.

With files from Liam Casey, Alanna Rizza and Gabriele Roy

Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Girl heard saying ‘Help my Dad’ in suspicious radio message: Campbell River RCMP

Police asking for help following mysterious signals from somewhere between Comox and Sayward

Island Highway intersection saw the most crashes in Campbell River – ICBC

Dozens of accidents at Highway 19A and Dogwood Street between 2013 and 2017, according to crash map

More sailings coming to 10 BC Ferries’ routes

Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said the sailings were originally cut in 2014

Federal fisheries minister calls for precautionary approach to fish farming

Government still reviewing Federal Court’s decision on PRV – Wilkinson

Spring fishery closures mulled for south coast

Fewer fish are returning to rivers and more conservation needed, say feds

VIDEO: Campbell River students join Sylas Thompson’s polar bear swim campaign

Ocean Grove Elementary students took the plunge as funds exceeded $18,000

Reports of rashes prompt closure of all Harrison Hot Springs pools

Public pool available after Fraser Health shut down all five mineral pools until further notice

Two more measles cases confirmed in Vancouver

It brings the number of total cases within the city connected to the outbreak to ten

B.C. Special Olympics officially underway in Vernon

Athlete’s Oath: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

Vancouver Aquarium wants your help to name a baby killer whale

The public helped name Springer’s first calf, Spirit, and is being asked to help with the second

Guards protest firing of fellow officers charged with assault at B.C. prison

Corrections officers demonstrated in Maple Ridge on Friday afternoon

Skier dies at Revelstoke Mountain Resort

Cause of death for young man has not been released

R. Kelly charged with 10 counts of sexual abuse

R&B star has been accused of sexual misconduct involving women and underage girls for years

Most Read