Legault says Quebec has 'exceeded capacity' in accommodating 'illegal immigrants'

'It is time for Justin Trudeau to put out a new tweet to say not to come anymore because we have exceeded our reception capacity,' says Legault.

Legault says Quebec has 'exceeded capacity' in accommodating 'illegal immigrants'
The Canadian Press / Spencer Colby
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Quebec Premier Francois Legault firmly told Ottawa that migrants and asylum seekers could no longer come to Canada through Roxham Road, citing "thinly stretched" resources to accommodate more migrants.

"It is time for Justin Trudeau to put out a new tweet to say not to come anymore because we have exceeded our reception capacity," said Legault. 

"We have problems with housing, school capacity, and hospital staff. At some point, Trudeau has to send a new message."

Quebec's premier blames Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for promoting an influx of illegal immigrants through a controversial tweet in 2017.

Trudeau said that Canada would "welcome" all those "fleeing persecution, terror, and war" in response to then-President Donald Trump's rollback on immigration. 

Following the tweet, Roxham Road, in particular, observed a sharp increase in migrants entering the country.

In 2022, 39,171 asylum seekers crossed Quebec through the unofficial Roxham Road border crossing.

"We are open to accepting refugees," said Legault last year, but he claimed that most Roxham migrants "are not refugees." 

Recent polling indicates that most (60%) of Quebecers want Roxham Road closed. A separate poll by Justice pour le Québec (Justice for Quebec) found that 68% of Quebecers strongly or moderately agree with that position.

With Ottawa taking upwards of fourteen months to determine if a migrant is a refugee, the provinces are legally obligated to offer them taxpayer-funded services, according to the Justice Department.

Quebec has requested that it only take up to 23% of asylum seekers moving forward, as Legault contends that his province's "capacity is not unlimited." 

"We cannot give services to so many people ... It takes time to build houses. We cannot tomorrow decide that yes, we can add 36,000 places for them."

Under the Safe Third Country Agreement, asylum seekers are bound to seek the protection of the first safe country they enter — Canada or the United States — but the rules only apply to official border crossings. Those crossing via irregular crossings are not faced with the same rules.

The recent influx of migrants shuttled from New York intensified the problem.

As reported by the New York Post, some migrants in the Big Apple received complimentary tickets to Plattsburgh, NY, where they travelled about half an hour by shuttle or taxi to cross into Quebec at Roxham Road.

Quebec's Immigration Minister Christine Fréchette said the uptick in illegal immigration — as highlighted by the departure in New York — underscores the need for Ottawa to resolve the predicament there.

Fréchette revealed 380 people crossed the border via Roxham Road last weekend, but only eight stayed in Quebec. Ottawa shipped the remaining asylum seekers to Ontario, where they received a block of hotel rooms to accommodate them.

The federal government revealed Tuesday that they had been transporting migrants entering Quebec via the controversial border crossing into neighbouring provinces at the request of Legault’s government. 

As of June, Ottawa bussed 5,300 migrants out of Quebec to mostly Windsor and Niagara Falls, Ontario. 

"We are starting to see results," said Fréchette. "We’re very happy with that."

"I don’t have information about what happened on Monday, but we expect that this new approach persists," she added. 

In a statement from the Premier's Office, they reiterated the importance that Canada renegotiates the Canada-United States Safe Third Country Agreement "to end this untenable situation.”

Legault also asked New York Mayor Eric Adams to stop helping asylum seekers reach the Canadian border by buying them bus tickets.

"Any assistance to migrants crossing the border where it is strictly forbidden should stop immediately," said Legault. 

"We understand that the situation of migrants in New York poses significant challenges, but the situation in Quebec, particularly in Montreal, is challenging."

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