Triage system for border crossers won’t be in place until late September

Crowded shelters in Montreal and Toronto could remain an issue until end of September

A long-promised 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.

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. Both Quebec and Toronto have called on the feds for help.

Ottawa’s response was the promised triage system, which would identify asylum seekers interested in settling in areas outside Montreal or Toronto to await the outcome of their refugee claims.

But the system has not materialized and Ottawa says it is still working on it.

In May, government said it was delayed due to the Ontario provincial election. Now, Ottawa says the new Doug Ford administration is not playing ball so it has to go to municipalities to find shelter options.

While this is being worked out, Ottawa is paying to house about 500 asylum seekers in hotels in the Toronto suburbs of Mississauga, Etobicoke and Markham, as the college dorms in Toronto currently housing them must be vacated by Aug. 9.

The contract with these hotels extends until Sept. 30. That’s when the feds hope to be able to roll out their triage system — five months after it was first announced.

“Our plan is to have a triage system in place by (Sept. 30) to allow us to better manage the flow of asylum seekers to different municipalities,” said Mathieu Genest, press secretary for Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen.

The City of Toronto is co-ordinating the outreach to municipalities in Ontario to identify areas where housing capacity exists. The city is working closely with the federal government to secure accommodation for the approximately 3,053 refugees and asylum seekers currently living in the city, Toronto spokeswoman Daniela Magisano said Wednesday.

Earlier this month, Toronto Mayor John Tory convened an urgent call with mayors from other large cities in Ontario, asking them to identify any sites or facilities that could be repurposed as temporary housing, as well as connections to employers for job opportunities.

Mayors responded positively to Toronto’s call for help, including Frank Scarpitti, mayor of Markham.

But not everyone in Markham is ready to welcome the refugees.

A protest on the weekend denounced any plan to house “illegal border crossers” in the community. The demonstration came to fisticuffs, with some protesters waving signs saying, “Markham say no to illegal border crossers,” and “Protect our city, protect our home,” while counter-protesters fought them with their own signs and chants of “Refugees are welcome here.”

Scarpitti says he believes the protest was organized by candidates running against him in the upcoming municipal elections and said rumours of 5,000 asylum seekers coming to Markham are false.

The mayor went out of his way to stress that while he believes in welcoming refugees and wants to help Toronto with its housing crunch, he is not “throwing the doors wide open” to asylum seekers.

“All that I did was indicate that we would see, because we have very limited options as the City of Markham… if there was any ability to help out in some small way given the limited options that we had,” Scarpitti said Wednesday in an interview.

“This notion that 5,000 are coming to the city of Markham is a gross exaggeration and meant to instill a reaction. And shame on these people, these candidates.”

NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan says she believes the backlash against irregular migrants is a result of tensions caused by a lack of forward planning and leadership from the federal government.

“It also doesn’t help when you have politicians misrepresenting the situation. Calling asylum seekers ‘illegals’ — that really exasperates the situation and creates the negative sentiments and dehumanizes asylum seekers,” she said, noting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Hussen have referred at times to irregular migration as “illegal.”

She questions why government is still trying to work out details of its triage plan five months after it was announced and well over a year since flows of refugee claimants began to cross irregularly across the U.S.-Canada border.

“By and large we knew that the numbers were going to go up because of the Trump administration,” she said.

“Right from the get-go, the NDP (and) I have called for the government to come up with a strategy to deal with the situation. We knew that housing was going to be a critical component of this.”

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

City of Lacombe to build Henner’s Pond Stormwater Outlet to Wolf Creek

Public is invited to attend a public information session for this upcoming project on August 23

Lacombe County Highlights – Aug. 9th, 2018

Highlights of the regular council meeting August 9, 2018

Blackfalds RCMP warns of ‘repo’ scammers

Blackfalds RCMP responds to two males attempting to steal utility vehicle

Harvest safety reminders from Lacombe County

Harvest season is busy and can be stressful. Pay close attention to fatigue, drowsiness and illness

Lacombe Council passes second reading of cannabis bylaw

Public hearing sees opposition to bylaw; third reading coming Sept. 10th

WATCH: Ellis Bird Farm hosts annual Bug Jamboree

Visitors enjoyed getting up close and personal with butterflies, beetles and bees

Quebec sets aside $900 million for companies hurt by U.S. tariffs

Premier Philippe Couillard says his government will make $863 million available over five years

Farmers ponder impact of alternatives to pesticides being banned

The nicotine-based pesticides scientists have linked to a rising number of honey bee deaths will be phased out of use in Canada over a three year period starting in 2021.

Time to kick maverick Tory MP Maxime Bernier out of caucus, Scheer urged

Conservative MP Maxime Bernier is taking issue with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s oft-repeated message of diversity in Canada, calling it a form of “radical multiculturalism.”

Thousands of police officers expected at regimental funeral in Fredericton

Two civilians were killed in a shooting in Fredericton that also claimed the lives of two police officers.

Liberals look at creating federal holiday to mark legacy of residential schools

AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde said day to recognize painful legacy would boost understanding

Are you Canada’s next Masterchef?

Home cooks looking to follow their cuisine dreams can apply now.

Ponoka RCMP seek arrest warrants in Hammy’s Liquor armed robbery

The armed robbery occurred with a knife on Aug. 11 and one suspect was caught shortly after

Most Read