Send all asylum seekers to other provinces, Quebec PM tells Trudeau
Prime Minister François Legault is calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to divert all asylum seekers entering Quebec “once they arrive at the border” to other provinces.
Legault made this request to Trudeau in a letter received by Radio-Canada.
This letter is the latest attempt by the Quebec government to pressure Ottawa to reduce the flow of asylum seekers entering the province, particularly through the irregular Roxham Road border crossing.
Last week, Quebec Immigration Minister Christine Fréchette said the province’s embassy had finally arrived as more migrants who entered the country via the Roxham Road were being sent to Ontario and other provinces.
In his letter, the Prime Minister called for all asylum seekers to be redirected to other parts of the country “regardless of their profile”.
He described the current situation as “unsustainable”.
According to Legault, the number of crossings by asylum seekers – mainly via Roxham Road – “exploded” in 2022 with around 39,000 irregular entries, in addition to around 20,000 regular entries.
“Quebec has received a vastly disproportionate share of Canada’s asylum seekers,” the letter said. “This influx cannot continue. Quebec’s capacity to accommodate refugees has been exceeded.”
CLOCK | Legault Says Quebec Cannot Take More Asylum Seekers:
The Quebec government says the capacity of both the province’s public services and community organizations that directly support refugee applicants has been stretched beyond their limits.
As a result, according to Legault, it has become more difficult to provide decent housing and services to asylum-seekers who “are struggling to find adequate housing and are becoming increasingly homeless”.
Legault explains that accommodating the rising number of asylum seekers is also putting pressure on the province’s education system and its ability to protect the French language, particularly in Montreal.
“The massive arrival of tens of thousands of migrants in metropolitan Quebec, a significant proportion of whom do not speak French, greatly complicates our goals of Frenchization,” the letter said.
In addition, the premier of Quebec is asking the province to reimburse all costs related to the reception and integration of migrants in 2021 and 2022, a figure he puts at hundreds of millions of dollars.
Legault is also asking Trudeau to renegotiate the Safe Third Countries Agreement with the United States, a message he has repeatedly tried to hammer in in the past.
The agreement signed between Canada and the United States in 2002 stipulates that migrants must apply for asylum in the first of the two countries they enter and cannot attempt a second attempt at an official border crossing.
It does not apply to irregular border crossings. Therefore, persons entering Canada via the Roxham Road cannot be turned away.
“Roxham Road will have to be closed one day, whether we like it or not,” Legault said in the letter. “It seems to me that your primary responsibility as prime minister of this country is to ensure that those limits are respected.”
Quebec’s other leaders are reacting
Parti Québécois leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon says Legault is not showing the strength to influence the federal government.
“The truth is he is not being taken seriously by Ottawa and his inability to even raise the possibility [Quebec] Independence doesn’t give us leverage,” he said.
Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, co-spokesman for Québec Solidaire, said asylum seekers often come to the province to meet up with their families and therefore should not be transferred against their will.
But he added that they must be distributed fairly across the country.
Nadeau-Dubois also targeted the Safe Third Country Agreement.
“The only permanent solution to end the current situation remains the suspension or renegotiation of the Safe Third Country Agreement so that these people can be adequately received under an official, safe procedure that respects everyone’s rights,” he said.
For its part, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) acknowledged the pressure being exerted on Quebec and Ontario, but emphasized Canada’s obligation under the Refugee Convention to maintain a “fair and compassionate system” for asylum seekers, however they arrive.
“IRCC is currently working with other provinces and municipalities to identify new destinations that have the capacity to accommodate asylum seekers,” said Stuart Isherwood, spokesperson for the IRCC.