Legault says Quebec is nearing 'breaking point' over influx of refugees

Nearly 60,000 asylum seekers came to Québec last year, said Premier François Legault, with more migrants seeking asylum last September than any month since at least 2017. The premier told Prime Minister Justin Trudeau they cannot accommodate any more foreigners.

Legault says Quebec is nearing 'breaking point' over influx of refugees
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christinne Muschi
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Québec is becoming increasingly agitated by Canada’s influx of refugees as the province nears a "breaking point." Premier François Legault penned a letter Wednesday to express his frustrations with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, according to The Canadian Press.

"We are very close to the breaking point due to the excessive number of asylum seekers arriving in Québec month after month," he wrote. "The situation has become unsustainable."

Nearly 60,000 asylum seekers came to Québec last year, said Legault, with more migrants seeking asylum last September than any month since at least 2017. The premier told Ottawa last February that its resources were "thinly stretched" and could not accommodate more foreigners seeking asylum.

"We have problems with housing, school capacity, and hospital staff," he said at the time. "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."

Although the Trudeau Liberals closed Roxham Road last March 24 in a bid to provide relief, Legault says that "momentarily" slowed the flow. Immigration Canada data proved those concerns true as closing the unofficial border crossing had a brief impact on the influx of asylum seekers last March and April.

"The arrivals have continued to increase at airports," notes Legault. "The number of people arriving on a visitor visa and applying for asylum is also increasing significantly."

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) processed no less than 3,420 applications at "air points" in Québec, including the Montreal-Trudeau Airport — dubbed the "new Roxham Road."

Ottawa takes upwards of 14 months to determine if an asylum claimant is a genuine refugee, putting the onus on the provinces to offer them taxpayer-funded services, according to the Justice Department.

Legault wants Ottawa to reimburse Quebec the $470 million it spent on taking in asylum seekers in 2021 and 2022, and to do the same for subsequent years. Last October, 43,200 asylum seekers received $33 million in aid, reported The Canadian Press.

In Iqaluit, Trudeau praised "the government of Quebec and Quebecers themselves [for being] extremely generous" toward asylum seekers.

He notes Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc "is engaging directly with the province on this issue," but did not commit to transferring excess asylum seekers elsewhere in the country.

"And I can say that we will be there to share the burden and the responsibility to continue being a country that welcomes people around the world and integrates them successfully," Trudeau told reporters Thursday.

As of writing, many who registered in Québec are still waiting for work permits and rely on financial assistance from Québec to stay afloat. But Legault says their presence exacerbates the province's housing crisis, with many ending up in “overflowing” homeless shelters.

Québec in 2022 took in more asylum seekers than the rest of the country combined, according to the letter. At least 39,171 people entered the province through Roxham Road that year.

"We are open to accepting refugees," said Legault last year, but he claimed that most Roxham migrants "are not refugees." Those concerns persisted, especially over Mexican nationals, who are coming to the province in greater numbers.

"The possibility of entering Canada from Mexico without a visa certainly explains part of the influx of asylum seekers," said Legault. "The airports, particularly in Toronto and Montreal, are becoming sieves and it is time to act," he added.

Canada accepted 15,000 asylum seekers from Central and South America in exchange for the closure of Roxham Road last March, effectively closing a loophole under the Safe Third Countries Agreement with the United States.

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