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Toronto New Toronto report urges federal government to help with asylum seekers in homeless shelters

A new municipal report out of Toronto says that 40 per cent of the city’s shelter occupants this spring were asylum seekers and refugees. In light of its new data, the city is again calling on the federal government for help.

“The city can’t do this alone,” Mayor John Tory said Thursday.

Toronto is asking the federal government to reimburse it for direct operational costs of resettling asylum seekers and refugees, which are expected to exceed a total of $64.5-million for 2017 and 2018. It is requesting an additional $6.3-million for lodging asylum seekers and refugees in college dormitories last summer, and another $43-million annually from 2019 onward.

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The federal government gave no indication on Thursday whether it would fulfill the request, saying it has already provided $11-million to Toronto and contributed funding to temporary house in the city. Federal Border Security Minister Bill Blair, Ontario Minister of Children, Community and Social Services Lisa MacLeod and Mr. Tory continue to “discuss these issues,” Mr. Blair’s spokesperson, Marie-Emmanuelle Cadieux, said. “Our government remains prepared to support all provinces and municipalities in managing further challenges.”

By Toronto’s count, the city is taking 18 to 20 new refugees or asylum claimants into shelter every day. A survey was conducted in April and factors in 2,019 responses representing 51 per cent of eligible individuals from the city’s selected sites.

Some workers on the ground, such as street nurse Cathy Crowe and Rafi Aaron from the Interfaith Coalition to Fight Homelessness, say that the 40-per-cent figure cited in the new data seems higher than what they have observed.

Mr. Tory echoed his long-standing plea on Thursday for the federal and provincial governments to co-ordinate a regional response. Ontario and Ottawa have been at odds over refugee resettlement, with Ms. MacLeod and federal Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen trading barbs earlier this month.

Ontario withdrew its support for the resettlement of asylum seekers in July. “This mess was 100 per cent the result of the federal government,” Premier Doug Ford said at the time. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has offered assurance to Mr. Tory that the federal government will come to Toronto’s aid, but few specifics have been offered. Ottawa has so far picked up the tab for refugees and asylum seekers being lodged in hotels outside of the city’s usual shelter program until January.

Toronto’s latest plea comes the same day as a new analysis from Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux, which estimated that the cost to the federal government of processing asylum seekers who crossed the border between Canada and the United States at unauthorized points of entry will reach nearly $400-million next year. That doesn’t include costs incurred by provincial governments, such as temporary housing and social assistance. Ottawa has previously announced that it will transfer $50-million to the governments of Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba to offset their expenses related to asylum seekers.

Francisco Rico-Martinez of the FCJ Refugee Centre is frustrated with a City of Toronto advisory group on the subject, which hasn’t met for months. “The only solution they’re seeing is asking for money from the federal government," he said. "What happens if they don’t give you money?”

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Don Peat, a spokesperson for Mr. Tory, said the advisory group finished its refugee capacity plan in June and will reconvene in early 2019.

Ms. Crowe and Mr. Aaron reject the idea that the shelter system is only under strain due to an influx of newcomers, with Ms. Crowe saying it has been beyond capacity since at least 2003. “That’s not because of refugees,” she said. She supports the call for federal help, but also believes that other data revealed in the report should equally warrant Ottawa’s attention. Indigenous people, for example, make up around 2.5 per cent of Toronto’s population, but were shown to be 16 per cent of the overall homeless population; 38 per cent of the outdoor population; and 20 per cent of users of 24-hour respite sites.

Over all, she urges Mr. Tory to call a state of emergency. “Talking nicely isn’t making it happen," she said.

Count of Indoor Homelessness

in Toronto

2006, 2009, 2013 and 2018

Street Needs Assessments

Provincial institutions

Shelters - Non-refugee/asylum claimants

Shelters - Refugee/asylum claimants

24-hour respite sites

24-hour women’s drop-ins

Out of the Cold program

45

118

497

2,618

342

3,876

3,990

3,628

3,649

1,028

836

817

585

2018

2013

2009

2006

Note: Data are not available on refugee/asylum claimants for

2006 and 2009 as this was prior to the implementation of the

city’s Shelter Management Information System (SMIS).

JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

SOURCE: toronto street needs assessment

Count of Indoor Homelessness in Toronto

2006, 2009, 2013 and 2018 Street Needs Assessments

Provincial institutions

45

Shelters - Non-refugee/asylum claimants

118

497

Shelters - Refugee/asylum claimants

24-hour respite sites

24-hour women’s drop-ins

2,618

Out of the Cold program

342

3,876

3,990

3,628

3,649

1,028

836

817

585

2006

2009

2013

2018

Note: Data are not available on refugee/asylum claimants for 2006 and

2009 as this was prior to the implementation of the city’s Shelter

Management Information System (SMIS).

JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

SOURCE: toronto street needs assessment

Migration status of shelter respondents

Refugee/

asylum

claimant

Migrated

(Total)

Did not

migrate

Temporary

resident

Surveyed groups

Immigrant

Outdoors

76%

19%

12%

6%

1%

City-administered

shelters

38%

60%

17%

40%

3%

Single adults

50%

49%

21%

24%

3%

Families

8%

90%

8%

80%

3%

Youth

49%

46%

14%

30%

2%

24-hour respite sites

68%

28%

21%

4%

3%

VAW shelters

31%

68%

42%

18%

8%

All respondents

45%

52%

19%

30%

3%

Count of Indoor Homelessness in Toronto

2006, 2009, 2013 and 2018 Street Needs Assessments

Provincial institutions

45

Shelters - Non-refugee/asylum claimants

118

Shelters - Refugee/asylum claimants

497

24-hour respite sites

24-hour women’s drop-ins

2,618

Out of the Cold program

342

3,876

3,990

3,628

3,649

1,028

836

817

585

2006

2009

2013

2018

Note: Data are not available on refugee/asylum claimants for 2006 and 2009 as this was

prior to the implementation of the city’s Shelter Management Information System (SMIS).

JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: toronto street needs assessment

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