August 13, 2018 3:00 pm
Updated: August 13, 2018 11:16 pm

Dominic LeBlanc, new intergovernmental affairs minister, takes over irregular migration task force as tensions simmer

WATCH: LeBlanc takes over federal-provincial task force dealing with asylum seekers


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.

READ MORE: ‘Crisis’ or ‘misperception?’ Bill Blair reacts to new poll on how Canadians view migrants

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.

WATCH BELOW: Canada spent $166 million dealing with asylum seekers

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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.

READ MORE: Majority of illegal migrants to Canada in 2018 are Nigerians with U.S. travel visas

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.

WATCH: Lisa Macleod asks federal government to compensate Ontario $200 million in immigration costs

“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.

WATCH BELOW: Federal immigration minister, Ontario minister blast each other for ‘lack of co-operation’

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.

READ MORE: Over 26,000 people have crossed the border illegally since last year, but only 1% have been removed

“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.”

WATCH BELOW: Bill Blair brushes aside Doug Ford’s ‘rhetoric’; says work is ongoing on asylum seekers

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.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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