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

Photographer finds rare sights at Takakia Lake

It took three summers, but Gregory Gould finally saw vistas and meteors by the protected alpine lake

Haida Gwaii high schools get a jump on new curriculum

Haida Gwaii high school students are starting the year with some new… Continue reading

Haida Gwaii Funeral Services gets support

Village of Queen Charlotte donates storage facility to non-profit group

Tlellagraph: One fire, two points of view

“No matter how good a person you are, you are evil in… Continue reading

Community dinner set to honour responders who handled Q.C. explosion

Potluck-style dinner set for Friday, Oct. 5 at the Queen Charlotte Community Hall

Canning sockeye by hand in North Coast B.C.

Arnie Nagy teaches the Northern View how to can salmon in Prince Rupert

VIDEO: Hundreds line highway as family brings home body of B.C. teen

Northern B.C. showed their support by lining Hwy 16 as Jessica Patrick’s body returned to Smithers.

Man arrested after carjacking, collision, pepper spray attacks in Vancouver

Vancouver police say one man is in custody after a chaotic scene of events in the downtown core

Canadian investigator says World Anti-Doping Agency got a bad deal from Russia

A Canadian lawyer says the World Anti-Doping Agency rushed into accepting a bad deal by reinstating the country’s drug-testing program.

Fashion Fridays: Rock some animal print

Kim XO, lets you in on the latest fall fashion trends on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

New evacuations ordered because of Florence flooding

Emergency managers on Friday ordered about 500 people to flee homes along the Lynches River

B.C. doctor weighs in on the kid ‘screen time’ debate

A Maple Ridge mother opens up about her children’s use of tablets, smartphones and television

B.C. councillor’s expenses being sent to the RCMP

Decision to have expenses audited and shared with RCMP taken at special meeting of council

Most Read