In response to the increasing number of asylum requests in Canada, the federal government has allocated an extra $362 million to help municipalities and provinces find homes for those seeking refuge.
In light of the severe weather, Immigration Minister Marc Miller emphasized the need for this assistance as a means to provide refuge. Nevertheless, he did admit that drastic change is required, stressing the need to fix the problems with a system put in place in 2017 to handle large migratory flows in the past.
While housing and support for asylum seekers fall under the jurisdiction of provincial and municipal governments, the federal government has repeatedly offered supplemental payments to alleviate the burden. Miller emphasized the need for substantive changes to the system, stating, "I think we owe it to Canadians to reform a system that has very much been a stopgap measure since 2017 to deal with large historic flows of migration."
As of the latest update, approximately 7,300 asylum claimants in need of housing are accommodated in 4,000 hotel rooms across six provinces. The new funding includes $100 million allocated to Quebec, with the distribution of the remaining funds yet to be specified. Toronto is expected to receive a substantial amount, but Ontario's Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Paul Calandra, argued that even the full sum wouldn't adequately address the city's needs. He urged the federal government to take responsibility for the crisis it contributed to and provide the necessary funding.
Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow had previously stated that the city requires $250 million, warning of a potential additional six percent "federal impacts levy" if the funds are not provided, in addition to a proposed 10.5 percent property tax hike for 2024. Miller acknowledged that the current system is not perfect and falls short of a long-term solution, but stressed that it is a necessary step that must be taken.