Ahmed Hussen the federal Minister of Immigration is not a fan of the Ontario Tory government’s references to people claiming refugee status as “illegal border crossers.”
It may be recalled that the term was first used last week by a spokesman for Premier Doug Ford to the media referring to the recent influx of asylum seekers as being the cause for a housing crisis in Toronto and “threats to services that Ontario families depend on.”
On Monday, an emailed statement sent to The Canadian Press from Ford’s office repeated the “illegal border crossers” terminology.
Ahmed Hussen, the federal Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, told a news conference Monday he believes Ford’s vocabulary is inaccurate.
“I’m very concerned by Premier Ford and (provincial) minister (Lisa) MacLeod really making statements that are difficult to understand when it comes to how they’re describing asylum seekers,” Hussen told reporters in Halifax.
“These are people who we have a legal obligation to give a fair hearing to, and so we’re applying Canadian law, we’re applying international law and that requires all levels of government to work together.”
The act of crossing the border at a point other than an official port of entry is illegal. However, according to the federal Customs Act, those seeking asylum in Canada have that right to do so under the United Nations 1951 Refugee Convention.
Hussen addressed the issue of language as he took questions from reporters about Ontario’s call for additional financial help from Ottawa to deal with asylum seekers in Toronto.
Between the beginning of January and the end of May 2018, the Canada Border Services Agency and Immigration and Refugees and Citizenship Canada processed more than 20,000 asylum claimants, according to federal data.
There were 3,304 refugee claimants in the Toronto shelter system as of late June, accounting for close to half of its users.
Fifty-four bedroom dormitories at Centennial College in Toronto are being used as temporary homes for 344 asylum seekers, and hundreds more are being housed at another student residence.
The asylum seekers are expected to be out of the residences by Aug. 9, as the colleges prepare for the return of the student population.
Hussen said he was “perplexed” by the request for more money at a time when the province isn’t co-operating with efforts to redirect people to temporary shelters outside of large centres.
He noted that Ottawa has allocated $50 million, $11 million of which is earmarked for Ontario, to assist with temporary housing for the asylum seekers.
“When someone crosses our border, it’s an illegal act. But once they’re on Canadian soil and they claim asylum, the charge of crossing irregularly is stayed pending the determination of their asylum claim,” he said.
The problem is that a significant number of asylum seekers prefer coming to Toronto over settling in other smaller towns and communities. And it is a fact that the homeless shelters are crowded and if this continues, it may well be Canadian homeless people who will suffer as a result of over-crowding by asylum seekers or illegal border crossers which to those affected is the same thing. -CINEWS