Triage system for border crossers won’t be in place until late September

Crowded shelters in Montreal and Toronto could remain an issue until end of September

A long-promised triage system aimed at redirecting irregular border crossers from crowded shelters in Montreal and Toronto will not be in place until as late as the end of September.

The federal government says it’s working with individual municipalities across Ontario and must identify available housing capacity before it can roll out its triage program.

Ottawa announced the so-called triage system in April following concerns raised by the province of Quebec over an influx of asylum seekers flooding temporary housing facilities in Montreal.

Since then, Toronto has also seen a spike in refugee hopefuls converging on its homeless shelters and college dormitories. Both Quebec and Toronto have called on the feds for help.

Ottawa’s response was the promised triage system, which would identify asylum seekers interested in settling in areas outside Montreal or Toronto to await the outcome of their refugee claims.

But the system has not materialized and Ottawa says it is still working on it.

In May, government said it was delayed due to the Ontario provincial election. Now, Ottawa says the new Doug Ford administration is not playing ball so it has to go to municipalities to find shelter options.

While this is being worked out, Ottawa is paying to house about 500 asylum seekers in hotels in the Toronto suburbs of Mississauga, Etobicoke and Markham, as the college dorms in Toronto currently housing them must be vacated by Aug. 9.

The contract with these hotels extends until Sept. 30. That’s when the feds hope to be able to roll out their triage system — five months after it was first announced.

“Our plan is to have a triage system in place by (Sept. 30) to allow us to better manage the flow of asylum seekers to different municipalities,” said Mathieu Genest, press secretary for Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen.

The City of Toronto is co-ordinating the outreach to municipalities in Ontario to identify areas where housing capacity exists. The city is working closely with the federal government to secure accommodation for the approximately 3,053 refugees and asylum seekers currently living in the city, Toronto spokeswoman Daniela Magisano said Wednesday.

Earlier this month, Toronto Mayor John Tory convened an urgent call with mayors from other large cities in Ontario, asking them to identify any sites or facilities that could be repurposed as temporary housing, as well as connections to employers for job opportunities.

Mayors responded positively to Toronto’s call for help, including Frank Scarpitti, mayor of Markham.

But not everyone in Markham is ready to welcome the refugees.

A protest on the weekend denounced any plan to house “illegal border crossers” in the community. The demonstration came to fisticuffs, with some protesters waving signs saying, “Markham say no to illegal border crossers,” and “Protect our city, protect our home,” while counter-protesters fought them with their own signs and chants of “Refugees are welcome here.”

Scarpitti says he believes the protest was organized by candidates running against him in the upcoming municipal elections and said rumours of 5,000 asylum seekers coming to Markham are false.

The mayor went out of his way to stress that while he believes in welcoming refugees and wants to help Toronto with its housing crunch, he is not “throwing the doors wide open” to asylum seekers.

“All that I did was indicate that we would see, because we have very limited options as the City of Markham… if there was any ability to help out in some small way given the limited options that we had,” Scarpitti said Wednesday in an interview.

“This notion that 5,000 are coming to the city of Markham is a gross exaggeration and meant to instill a reaction. And shame on these people, these candidates.”

NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan says she believes the backlash against irregular migrants is a result of tensions caused by a lack of forward planning and leadership from the federal government.

“It also doesn’t help when you have politicians misrepresenting the situation. Calling asylum seekers ‘illegals’ — that really exasperates the situation and creates the negative sentiments and dehumanizes asylum seekers,” she said, noting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Hussen have referred at times to irregular migration as “illegal.”

She questions why government is still trying to work out details of its triage plan five months after it was announced and well over a year since flows of refugee claimants began to cross irregularly across the U.S.-Canada border.

“By and large we knew that the numbers were going to go up because of the Trump administration,” she said.

“Right from the get-go, the NDP (and) I have called for the government to come up with a strategy to deal with the situation. We knew that housing was going to be a critical component of this.”

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Museum at Campbell River and Greenways Land Trust are hosting a virtual talk by UVIC PhD candidate Garth Covernton on Nov. 5. Tickets are only $7 and are available at crmusum.ca. Photo courtesy Garth Covernton
New Museum at Campbell River speaker series leads off with talk on microplastics

Tickets for digital event Nov. 5 are only $7 and include the opportunity to ask questions

North Island Votes. Campbell River Mirror graphic
Babchuk declared winner in North Island

Nearly three-quarters of votes counted and mail-in ballots still to come

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

John Horgan has been re-elected the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. (File-Black Press)
Horgan trounces challengers to be re-elected in his Vancouver Island riding

MLA has represented constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca and its predecessors since 2005

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Provincial Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau speaks at Provincial Green Party headquarters at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe in Victoria. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)
VIDEO: Furstenau leads BC Greens to win first riding outside of Vancouver Island

Sonia Furstenau became leader of BC Greens one week before snap election was called

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

Most Read