U.S. President Donald Trump's increasingly tough stance on illegal immigration is driving more and more people north of the border than ever in search of asylum — and Toronto is feeling the strain after welcoming thousands into local shelters.
More than 3,200 refugee claimants are currently being supported by the City of Toronto's emergency shelter system, according to Mayor John Tory.
With emergency shelters beyond capacity, the city has been forced to rent out entire motels and college dormitories to house these asylum seekers in recent months, and 800 of those dorm room beds will soon be out of the picture.
Mayor John Tory, flanked by #TOCouncil lors Pasternak and Cressy for a morning news conference. Calling on fed govt to provide City of #TO more help to house refugees/asylum seekers. pic.twitter.com/0Qt8ZJQ5QC— Mark Carcasole (@MarkCarcGlobal) June 26, 2018
"As of August 9, we will have no ability to accommodate the 800 refugees and asylum seekers currently housed on a temporary basis in dormitories at two Toronto colleges," wrote Tory in an urgent letter to Canada's federal government on Monday.
"Moving just this population of 800 … would require the emergency closures of multiple community centres in neighbourhoods across the City and the cancellation of public programming — a step the City is not prepared to take."
Tory wrote in his letter that, while Toronto supports the federal refugee program and welcomes all newcomers, it cannot take in any more asylum seekers without seriously impacting the general public.
"We need the appropriate support and leadership of both Ontario and Canada," wrote the mayor to Canadian MPs, noting that the city's direct cost to house this most-recent wave of refugee claimants by the end of 2018 will exceed $64.5 million.
"I think we can all agree that having the City scramble to find emergency shelter for each new wave of arrivals is not sustainable, nor is it a desirable state of affairs," he continued. "What's needed is proper housing and proper supports, something the City cannot provide on its own."
By supports, he means money. Lots of it. And fast.
Over 7,600 asylum seekers have been caught illegally crossing the Canada-U.S. border this year alone, according to the RCMP — three times the amount we saw at this time last year — and more expected once the school year ends.
Many of these people are coming through Quebec, but end up in Canada's largest city.
"Toronto has a long history of supporting and welcoming refugee/asylum claimants including Vietnamese peoples in the 1970s, Somali peoples in the 1980s, and more recently, Syrian refugee/asylum claimants in 2016," reads a report from the Interim City Manager set to go before City Council today.
"Nothing has changed with respect to the City of Toronto's commitment to welcoming and supporting newcomers," it continues. "However, Ontario and Canada must engage and lead this effort if it is going to be successful."
by Lauren O'Neil via blogTO