Quebec Premier writes to Justin Trudeau: “Asylum seekers, unsustainable situation”

TORONTO – “The situation in Quebec is unsustainable due to the continuous arrival of asylum seekers”: that’s what Prime Minister François Legault wrote in a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking him to slow down the influx of asylum seekers entering the province, which – according to Legault – is approaching a “breaking point”. 

“We are very close to the breaking point due to the excessive number of asylum seekers arriving in Quebec month after month. The situation has become unsustainable,” Legault wrote in the letter, published by the Canadian Press. In 2022, Quebec welcomed more asylum seekers than the rest of the country combined, and the closure of the unofficial Roxham Road crossing south of Montreal in 2023 “momentarily” slowed the flow, Legault said. “However, the arrivals have continued to increase at airports. The number of people arriving on a visitor visa and applying for asylum is also increasing significantly.”

Nearly 60,000 new asylum seekers were registered in Quebec in the first eleven months of 2023, putting “very significant pressure” on public services, the premier wrote. “Asylum seekers have trouble finding a place to live, which contributes to accentuating the housing crisis,” the letter said. “Many end up in homeless shelters, which are overflowing.” And organizations that help asylum seekers can’t keep up with demand. Legault then states that the children of asylum seekers’ families are also putting a strain on schools that already have a shortage of teachers and space. The premier also reminds Trudeau that refugees awaiting work permits receive financial assistance from Quebec: last October, approximately 43,200 asylum seekers received $33 million in aid.

Legault expressed particular concern for Mexican citizens, who – he said – represent a growing percentage of asylum seekers arriving in the province, aided by “the ability to enter Canada from Mexico without a visa.”

Legault formally asks the prime minister to toughen his visa policies, urges an “equitable” distribution of asylum seekers across Canada, possibly by busing them to other provinces, and wants Ottawa to reimburse Quebec the $470 million spent to accommodate asylum seekers in 2021 and 2022, and to do the same for subsequent years. “Quebec is no longer in a position to welcome a disproportionate share of the asylum seekers entering Canada” he concludes. “This is an urgent matter of the utmost importance.”

For his part, Trudeau has reiterated, in recent days, his government’s commitment to welcoming 500,000 new permanent immigrants a year by 2025. At the same time, he has asked the Montreal Chamber of Commerce to carry out greater control over the temporary immigration (international students and temporary workers) to avoid worsening the shortage of accessible housing. Furthermore, he called on higher education institutions and companies to find their own housing solutions for these temporary residents, be they students or workers. In other words: someone else take care of it, it’s not my business.

In the pic above: the premier of Quebec, Francois Legault (photo from his Facebook page)