The federal government should “foot 100 percent of the bills” created by the influx of irregular border crossers since they’re the ones who created the “mess,” a spokesperson for Ontario Premier Doug Ford said on Thursday.
Ford’s Progressive Conservative government is withdrawing the province from its cooperation with the feds on the resettlement of asylum seekers, according to the Toronto Star. This could mean the end of an immigration agreement signed by both governments last November.
“The federal government encouraged illegal border crossers to come into our country, and the federal government continues to usher people across the U.S.-Quebec border into Ontario,” said spokesperson Simon Jefferies, going on to say this had resulted in a “housing crisis and threats to the services that Ontario families depend on.”
Ontario Children, Community and Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod told federal Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen that Queen’s Park is pulling back its efforts on the issue, and that Ottawa and municipalities like Toronto were responsible for figuring out a solution, the Star reported on Thursday, ahead of Premier Ford’s first official meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Sign up for the VICE News Canada Newsletter to get the best of our content delivered to your inbox daily
MacLeod is now in charge of four files that were previously separate — immigration, children and youth services, community and social services, as well as women’s issues.
It’s unclear, however, what this means in a practical sense for shelters in Toronto, for example, which have been flooded by irregular border crossers coming from the U.S.
“Ontario will always be a welcoming province to those who want to come to our country legally,” said Ford spokesperson Jefferies in a statement . “There is a process, however, that is currently not being followed by illegal border crossers.”
Under both international and Canadian law, irregular entry into a country to seek asylum is not consider “illegal.”
“The Ontario government offers a wide range of supports for newcomers to our province and country, including employment supports, language training, bridge training programs, and settlement services, and will continue moving forward,” the statement continued.
Speaking with reporters after his meeting with Ford on Thursday, Trudeau suggested that the premier didn’t have a full understanding of Canada’s obligations under international law when it comes to asylum seekers. Trudeau said he “attempted to reassure” Ford that the asylum seeker stream was separate from the immigration stream.
Last month, federal Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen announced that Ottawa would pledge $50 million in “initial funds” for provinces to cope with asylum seekers, including $11 million for Ontario. However, Toronto Mayor John Tory has said the cost of housing refugees until the end of this year will cost the city at least $64.5 million.
Tory pleaded for more resources from Ottawa and Queen’s Park to help with the currently bloated shelter system, which is packed with asylum seekers who come to Toronto after crossing the Quebec border.
“The City of Toronto has been clear that we need assistance to deal with unprecedented numbers of refugee claimants and asylum seekers,” said Tory in a statement. “The province has made its initial position clear. City staff have also been clear that we have exhausted our available sites, our resources and our personnel due to the recent unprecedented demand.”
“This cannot continue and must be resolved,” he continued, adding that he would continue urging the federal government to take immediate action.
While Ford has been hailed by many as a populist leader who doesn’t exploit anti-immigration fears, he has taken similar stances in the past.
In May, in response to a question about his support for a program that would bring immigrants to northern Ontario, Ford said “I’m taking care of our own first, once we take care of our own and we exhaust, we exhaust every single avenue and we don’t have anyone that can fill the job then I would be open to that.”
Cover Image: Doug Ford and Justin Trudeau meet on Thursday. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young.)