MAXVILLE, Ont. – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is reassuring Canadians that the country has the resources and the capacity to deal with the sudden spike in asylum seekers that have crossed into Quebec in recent weeks.
Speaking at an event in the eastern Ontario community of Maxville, Trudeau says it’s important for people to know that the government is making sure the influx of people is being handled properly.
He says Canada remains an open and compassionate country when it comes to refugees, and that staying that way requires making sure people know that the system is working properly.
The number of people seeking asylum in the province has tripled in the last two weeks: while there were roughly 50 requests a day during the first half of July, the number has since surged to 150 a day.
Quebec had already received 6,500 asylum seekers by the end of June and is on track to have 12,000 by the end of the year.
The province says the new arrivals are putting pressure on temporary accommodation resources, which are necessary while the federal government decides whether each newcomer is eligible to make a refugee claim.
Trudeau says Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen is on his way to Lacolle, Que., to ensure the necessary immigration staff and case workers are on the job.
“We are ensuring that the capacity to deal with these refugees is in place and our immigration system remains strong and robust,” Trudeau said Friday.
“We want migration to Canada to be done in an orderly fashion; there’s border checkpoints and border controls that we need to make sure are respected…. The people coming now irregularly will still have to go through all the proper processes.”
Canadians know intrinsically the value that newcomers can bring to the country’s community and its economy, he said.
“But we also know that … the core strength of Canada is that it’s not governments that are open to immigration, it’s Canadians themselves who are open to immigration.
“One of the reasons Canadians are open to immigration is because we know it has contributed to the growth of this country. Protecting Canadians’ confidence in the integrity of our system allows us to continue to be open, and that’s exactly what I plan to continue to do.”
Quebec has asked Ottawa to speed up the claims evaluation process, since most of the cost of caring for the newcomers falls to the province in the meantime. For now, they are being housed at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, which has been set up to accommodate as many as 600 people until mid-September.
Most of those arriving at the stadium are of Haitian descent.
The exodus from the U.S. is being blamed on the Trump administration’s expected plan to end a program that granted Haitians so-called “temporary protected status” following the massive earthquake that struck in 2010.
If the program isn’t extended, as many as 60,000 Haitians could be sent back to their homeland.