Send all asylum seekers to other provinces, Quebec premier tells Trudeau

Premier François Legault says "Quebec has taken on a disproportionate share of asylum seekers" and the province's resources are strained beyond its limits.

Quebec has done more than its fair share, says Legault

Premier François Legault is urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to redirect all asylum seekers entering Quebec to other provinces "as soon as they arrive at the border."

Legault issued this request to Trudeau in a letter obtained by Radio-Canada.

That letter is the latest attempt from the Quebec government to put pressure on Ottawa to reduce the flow of asylum seekers entering the province, especially through the irregular border crossing on Roxham Road.

Last week, Quebec Immigration Minister Christine Fréchette said the province's message was finally getting through, as more migrants entering the country through Roxham Road were getting sent to Ontario and other provinces.

In his letter, the premier called for all asylum seekers to be redirected to other parts of the country, "regardless of their profile."

He described the current situation as "untenable."

According to the Quebec premier, the number of crossings by asylum seekers — mostly through Roxham Road — "exploded" in 2022 with roughly 39,000 irregular entries, in addition to about 20,000 regular entries.

"Quebec has taken on a completely disproportionate share of Canada's asylum seekers," the letter reads. "This influx cannot continue. Quebec's capacity to receive refugees has been exceeded."

The Quebec government says the capacity of both the province's public services and the community organizations that provide direct support to refugee claimants have been stretched beyond their limits.

As a result, Legault says it is now more difficult to provide humane, adequate accommodation and services to asylum seekers who are "struggling to find adequate housing and increasingly becoming homeless."

Legault states that accommodating the increasing number of asylum seekers is also putting pressure on the province's education system and its ability to protect the French language, most notably in the city of Montreal.

"The massive arrival of tens of thousands of migrants in the Quebec metropolis, a significant proportion of whom do not speak French, greatly complicates our francization goals," the letter reads.

In addition, the Quebec premier is demanding the province be reimbursed for all costs related to welcoming and integrating migrants in 2021 and 2022, a number he puts in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Legault also asks Trudeau to renegotiate the Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States, a message he's tried to hammer home repeatedly in the past.

The agreement, signed in 2002 between Canada and the United States, means that migrants must submit their asylum application in the first of the two countries they enter and cannot try a second time at an official border crossing.

It does not apply to irregular border crossings. That's why people who enter Canada through Roxham Road cannot be turned away.

"Roxham Road will have to be closed some day, whether we like it or not," Legault said in the letter. "It seems to me that it is your primary responsibility as Prime Minister of this country to ensure that these boundaries are respected."


Joe Bongiorno is an award-winning author, former high school teacher, and a journalist at the CBC. He has also reported for Maisonneuve, Canada’s National Observer, Ricochet Media, The Rover and others.

    With files from Radio-Canada

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