Amidst the influx of asylum seekers, Ont. The mayor wants more help

As the federal government seeks to renegotiate the Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States, an eastern Ontario mayor says his city needs more help from Ottawa to cope with the influx of asylum seekers. coming through unusual intersections such as Roxham Road.

Cornwall Ont. Mayor Justin Towndale told CTV National News News Chief and Senior Editor Omar Sachedina his city is “not anti-immigration” and wants to help asylum seekers. However, for a city of less than 50,000 people, he said local services are being stretched at full capacity.

“Our main concerns and challenges relate to the services we need to provide and expect to provide beyond the services we provide to our residents on an ongoing basis. ,” the mayor of eastern Ontario said Thursday.

The federal government has sent 900 migrants to Cornwall, who are staying in hotels in the city. When the migrants arrived in Cornwall by bus, the burden of managing social services was reduced to the city.

Towndale said the city’s Department of Human Services had to bring back retirees to fill the void. In addition, the city is also losing revenue from tourism taxes, as migrants’ housing already accounts for half of the city’s hotel rooms.

“Ultimately, we’ll hit our limits on resources and mining. So we’re asking for help with that, and … ongoing sustainability funding can help us page out. cover his expenses,” he said.

Many of these migrants entered Canada from the United States and arrived in Quebec via Roxham Road, an unofficial border crossing between Quebec and New York. However, the federal government began sending migrants to Ontario cities such as Cornwall, Windsor and Niagara Falls after Quebec authorities became concerned that the province was seeing a disproportionate number of asylum seekers, causing Their resources are strained.

Under the Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the United States, migrants must apply for asylum in the first country they arrive. Canada can return asylum seekers from the United States under the agreement, but the agreement only applies to official border crossings, allowing migrants to seek asylum after crossing Roxham Road illegally. often.

Maria, an asylum seeker from Angola who doesn’t want to publish her last name, has been in Cornwall since January—she arrived in Canada via Roxham Road. After being denied asylum in the US, she said she hoped her children would have a better life in Canada.

“I’m really worried about what will happen to me. I have children, and I look young, but I’m not that young. And I need a place to live to raise my children in peace.” she said. CTV National News.

Towndale would also like to see better communication from the federal government. Before a convoy of buses carrying migrants arrives in Cornwall, he says the city usually gets only a few hours’ notice.

“It’s difficult for us because when people come here, we don’t know what kind of service they need. And that could be everything, you know, the language they speak, whether they’re having a hard time. medical difficulty or not.” he say.

US President Joe Biden landed in Ottawa on Thursday night and is set to meet Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Sources from the Canadian Press say Trudeau and Biden could finalize a deal to expand the Safe Third Country Agreement and return migrants crossing Roxham Road and other unofficial border crossings. . Towndale agreed that the deal “definitely needs to be reviewed.”

“Ultimately, asylum seekers will suffer the most because the system is down because it doesn’t work. So I think we need to find an ongoing long-term solution to this problem,” he said. .

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