The House of Commons immigration committee will return to Ottawa this summer for a series of emergency meetings, at which they will call on three cabinet ministers to explain the Liberal government’s plan to manage the surge in asylum seekers along the Canada-U.S. border.
The committee met Monday and members agreed to hold at least two emergency meetings before Aug. 3 to study the government’s response to the thousands of asylum seekers who have entered Canada illegally from the United States. The committee meetings come as tensions mount between the federal Liberals and Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government over the approach to resettling the border crossers.
The original motion, tabled by Conservative MP and immigration critic Michelle Rempel, called on Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen to testify. The Liberals amended the motion Monday to add Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development.
In a tweet Monday, Mr. Hussen said he is looking forward to appearing at the committee to “reiterate our clear plan to continue managing irregular migration and to dispel misinformation.”
Ms. Rempel said she will urge the committee to hear from Ontario Community and Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod. Earlier this month, newly elected Ontario Premier Doug Ford withdrew the province’s support for the resettlement of asylum seekers who cross the border illegally, saying that the federal government created the problem and should pick up the tab to fix it.
The Ford government says the resettlement of asylum seekers has cost Toronto $72-million, while the province has spent a further $60-million on social assistance and legal aid. However, the federal government has only set aside $11-million to help Toronto deal with the added costs – money that will flow to the city in the coming weeks.
The $11-million is part of a $50-million federal commitment to Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba to help them pay for some of the extra costs incurred from the influx of asylum seekers.
The federal government said more support is on the way, as officials face an Aug. 9 deadline to find housing for 800 asylum seekers currently living in college dormitories that need to be empty for the arrival of students.
Ms. Rempel said Canadians need to know more about the federal government’s spending plan now that it appears to have made a decision to “normalize” the arriving of more than 31,000 border crossers since January, 2017.
“Regardless about how you feel about this decision, on if it’s right or not, it has been made and Canadians now need information on how much this will cost them and how people will be integrated into Canada,” she said.
The number of asylum seekers arriving in Canada between official ports of entry is falling each month, according to statistics from the federal immigration department. In June, the RCMP intercepted 1,263 border crossers, down from 1,869 in May and 2,560 in April. However, the numbers are still significantly higher than June, 2017, when 884 asylum seekers entered Canada along the U.S. border.
NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan said the emergency meetings are necessary to determine whether the government thinks the United States is still a safe country for refugees under President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.
“The President put in a policy and then acted on it by ripping [migrant] children away from their parents – throwing them in cages, locking up the parents. Under what planet is that a safe country for anyone?” Ms. Kwan said.