Bill Blair, the federal minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction, said the federal government has begun the process of relocating asylum seekers in Toronto, those who have been housed in temporary college dormitories for months, to hotel and motel rooms across the Greater Toronto Area ahead of the Aug. 9 deadline.
“Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada has relocated, booked and paid for the alternative accommodations within the GTA.”
Dormitories at Centennial College and Humber College were being used to temporarily house asylum seekers, but the accommodations had to be vacated to make way for returning students.
VIDEO: John Tory praises federal government intervention on asylum seeker housing problem
Tory said he reached out to mayors of cities and towns surrounding Toronto in recent weeks to help with the accommodations.
“I got them on the phone just a couple weeks ago and when I got them on the phone, immediately on that call, there was no delay,” Tory said.
“Several of them said they would step up to be help. Several of them in fact said they want some of these individuals and families to come to their towns and cities because they have jobs and housing available for them at this time.”
Earlier this year, the federal government pledge $50 million to assist Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba with the costs associated with asylum seekers.
LISTEN: MP Bill Blair on asylum seekers
Blair said Toronto has received $11 million of that money to help with the current housing issue.
“Our government has signed a memorandum of understanding that has allowed us to directly provide Toronto with these funds to help offset the cost to the recent influx of asylum seekers,” Blair said.
“We continue to work towards longer term solutions which could potentially include further financial support for temporary housing.”
Officials estimate there are currently more than 3,000 refugees and asylum seekers living in the city.
Tory has been adamant in recent weeks about the need for federal assistance to help with the cost and logistics of relocation.
The federal government promised to pay to house about 500 asylum seekers in hotels in the Toronto suburbs until they are able to roll out their triage system, which is still weeks away.
Triage system still not ready: feds
The federal government says a 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.
WATCH: Federal cash for asylum seekers comes through for Toronto. Matthew Bingley reports.
“The triage system is going to allow us to sit down with municipalities, ideally the provinces would be included in this discussion,” Blair said.
“We’ve heard from a number of mayors who’ve said, ‘We can not only accommodate these individuals, we need them. We want them.’”
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.
VIDEO: Bill Blair brushes aside Doug Ford’s ‘rhetoric’; says work is ongoing on asylum seekers
Ontario asks feds to pay up for cost of asylum seekers
The Ontario government has formally requested $200 million from the federal government to pay for the cost of asylum seekers who entered Canada from the United States and who are living in Ontario.
Lisa MacLeod, Ontario’s minister for Children, Community and Social Services, wrote a letter July 26 expressing concern over the government’s efforts in managing the issue of “illegal border crossing” and demanding financial compensation.
In the letter, MacLeod, who is also responsible for immigration, writes that for over a year, Ontario has been straining to support “illegal border crossers” and that the Liberal government’s approach is “now testing the patience and generosity of Ontarians.”
Blair said Friday all three levels of government must play a role in helping deliver services to asylum seekers at temporary shelters.
“We’re all working on this together, and when as we’ve demonstrated I think this morning, when a municipality experiences exceptional costs dealing with a new and emerging situation, we are there with them, supporting them,” Blair said.
MacLeod says the $200-million figure breaks down as follows: $74 million for shelter costs for the City of Toronto, $12 million for shelter costs for the City of Ottawa, $90 million for social assistance costs her ministry is footing, $20 million for education and $3 million for the Red Cross.
VIDEO: Toronto wants help housing asylum seekers, refugees
— With files from The Canadian Press