Dominic LeBlanc, new intergovernmental affairs minister, takes over irregular migration task force as tensions simmer
Dominic LeBlanc, the newly minted minister of intergovernmental affairs, will take over the working group that brings together federal and provincial partners to deal with irregular migration as tensions continue to simmer with provinces demanding federal cash for the cost of dealing with migrants.
A senior government source confirmed the change to Global News on Monday afternoon.
It was first reported earlier Monday afternoon by Radio-Canada.
The change to the leadership of the Ad Hoc Intergovernmental Task Force on Irregular Migration came on the heels of a meeting of the group, which was formerly led by Transport Minister Marc Garneau.
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Irregular migration has been a major issue in federal and provincial affairs over the last year-and-a-half.
Thousands of irregular migrants, most of them Nigerians who have been issued travel visas by the United States, have crossed into Canada at points that are not official border crossings over the past year-and-a-half.
Provinces like Ontario and Quebec have demanded federal cash to help cover the costs they say are incurred from dealing with the migrants.
Speaking with reporters in Ottawa, Ontario Immigration Minister Lisa MacLeod repeated past assertions that the province needs $200 million from the federal government to deal with them, and that the Liberals are failing to find a solution to the problem.
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“In this particular case where there is a port of entry that is not officially recognized and the federal government is not doing anything about it, what we’re saying is, ‘You’re going to have to compensate us,'” she said.
She also applauded the inclusion of Border Security Minister Bill Blair to the task force, who she said had replaced Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen.
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Hussen and MacLeod frequently butted heads publicly over the issue of migration.
Last month, MacLeod called Hussen a “bully” and said he had called her “un-Canadian” for questioning the handling of the situation.
“It became more of a matter of rhetoric — who’s Canadian, who’s not, who’s illegal,” she said on Monday.
“The words around that become more important than fixing the problem.”
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Blair spoke with reporters shortly after MacLeod’s press conference and praised the work Hussen has done on the task force given the difficult circumstances.
“Canada faced an unusual challenge with a significant surge,” he said.
“The responsibility for that discussion now shifts to Minister LeBlanc and myself.”
More than 26,000 irregular migrants have crossed the border since last year, with only one per cent of them having been removed so far.
That number now exceeds the 25,000 Syrian refugees Canada welcomed in 2015 and 2016.
A recent poll conducted by the Angus Reid Institute found 40 per cent of Canadian respondents believe the irregular border crosses are “economic opportunists” and not genuine refugees.
As well, 67 per cent of respondents said the migrant situation has reached “crisis” levels.
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