Federal government paying to move migrants from Quebec to Ontario

Burden sharing!

The federal government transported almost all of the migrants entering the country through Roxham Road to other provinces over the weekend, said Quebec Minister of Immigration Christine Fréchette on Tuesday, calling the wave of relocations a “new approach” from Ottawa.

Three hundred seventy-two of the 380 migrants who arrived in Quebec by that route on Saturday and Sunday were relocated, largely to Ontario, the minister said in a scrum in Quebec City on Tuesday.

She saluted Ottawa for fulfilling the province’s demand for help with the recent influx of asylum seekers through the irregular border crossing south of Montreal and called on Justin Trudeau’s government to continue.

“We are starting to see results,” said Ms. Fréchette. “We’re very happy with that.”

The federal government has been relocating Roxham Road migrants regularly because of capacity constraints in Quebec since last summer, and would not confirm whether the spike in relocations was a new policy or a blip. Since June, more than 5,300 migrants have been relocated from the province, including some 500 to Windsor, Ont., and roughly 2,700 to Niagara Falls, Ont.

A federal source said this is part of a long-standing initiative, paid for by Ottawa, but did not clarify whether the number of people being relocated outside Quebec have been expanded. The source added that people who do not want to relocate can stay in Quebec.

The Globe and Mail is not naming the source because they were not authorized to speak about the matter.

Ms. Fréchette called on the federal government to maintain the recent heightened rate of removals, repeating her government’s position that Quebec’s “welcoming capacity” has been surpassed. Roughly 60,000 asylum seekers arrived in Quebec last year, double the annual number from before the pandemic, the minister has said.

That has sparked a fierce political debate in the province about how to manage the situation, with the opposition Parti Québécois tabling a motion in the National Assembly recently calling on the government to “close” the border crossing.

Federal opposition parties have also repeatedly called for a review of the Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States, a long-standing pact that requires border agents from each country to turn away asylum seekers from the other if they present themselves at official land border crossings.

Roxham Road, along the border between New York State and Quebec’s Eastern Townships, has become the primary route for irregular entries into Canada in recent years. The RCMP intercepted 34,478 asylum seekers who did not use official ports of entry to enter Quebec between January and November of 2022, according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada data, compared with just 316 in the rest of the country.

On Tuesday, Ms. Fréchette called the weekend’s mass relocations a “first step” that could potentially come to involve other provinces receiving asylum seekers from Roxham Road. She said the federal government recently booked 500 hotel rooms to house migrants in Ontario as a sign of seriousness.

“I don’t have information about what happened on Monday, but we are expecting that this new approach persists,” she said.

In the future, she added, her government is asking that the share of asylum seekers who stay in Quebec be kept around 22 or 23 per cent, in keeping with the province’s demographic weight within Canada.

Roxham Road has become one of the stickiest issues in Quebec politics as Premier François Legault’s nationalist Coalition Avenir Québec government has sought to manage public unease with the increase in irregular migration.

On Tuesday, Mr. Legault met with U.S. ambassador to Canada David Cohen to ask for a speedy renegotiation of the agreement governing asylum seekers between the countries.

“I said to him, ‘I don’t understand why it’s taking this long to settle with the United States.’ What we’re asking is that the Safe Third Country Agreement be applied to all ports of entry, including Roxham.”

Source: Federal government paying to move migrants from Quebec to Ontario

And the article in Le Devoir:

La ministre de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration, Christine Fréchette, s’est réjouie mardi du fait que presque la totalité des demandeurs d’asile ayant traversé la frontière par le chemin Roxham la fin de semaine dernière ont été envoyés en Ontario.

Parmi les personnes qui ont emprunté cette voie de passage irrégulier samedi et dimanche, seules 8 sur 380 sont restées au Québec, a affirmé Mme Fréchette en mêlée de presse. « On est très contents de ça et on espère que ça va se maintenir dans le temps », a-t-elle dit.

Récemment, « 500 chambres additionnelles » ont été réservées par Ottawa en Ontario afin d’accueillir des demandeurs d’asile, a-t-elle affirmé.

La ministre Fréchette soutient que « la capacité d’accueil du Québec a été dépassée ». « On demande à ce que la proportion des demandeurs d’asile qui restent au Québec équiva[ille] au poids politique du Québec à l’intérieur du Canada, a-t-elle ajouté. Donc on parle de 22 à 23 %. Là, on serait dans des eaux acceptables. »

Christine Fréchette admet toutefois que le dossier sera « réellement réglé » par une renégociation de l’entente entre le Canada et les États-Unis sur les tiers pays sûrs. Le chemin Roxham, situé au sud de Montréal, n’est pas soumis à l’accord, car il s’agit d’une voie de passage irrégulier. Un total de 39 171 demandeurs d’asile y ont été interceptés l’an dernier.

En juillet dernier, Jean Boulet, qui était alors le ministre québécois de l’Immigration, avait salué la décision du gouvernement fédéral de rediriger en Ontario une centaine de demandeurs d’asile entrés de façon irrégulière au Québec.

Le bureau du ministre fédéral de l’Immigration, des Réfugiés et de la Citoyenneté, Sean Fraser, dit s’adapter depuis l’été dernier en fonction de la capacité du Québec et de ses besoins. « On reconnaît qu’au Québec, c’est un gros fardeau », a dit au Devoir Émilie Simard, porte-parole du ministre.

Legault et l’ambassadeur américain

Plus tôt mardi, le premier ministre québécois, François Legault, a dit qu’il continuerait à faire pression sur son homologue canadien, Justin Trudeau, afin qu’il « accélère » les négociations avec les États-Unis concernant l’accord sur les tiers pays sûrs.

Il a d’ailleurs profité de sa rencontre le jour même avec l’ambassadeur américain au Canada, David L. Cohen, pour déplorer le fait que le chemin Roxham n’est pas inclus dans l’entente.

Sur Twitter, M. Cohen s’est réjoui d’avoir pu discuter des « objectifs des États-Unis et du Canada en matière d’énergie propre, de commerce et de nos frontières communes ».

Source: La ministre Fréchette se réjouit du transfert de demandeurs d’asile en Ontario

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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