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Ontario Minister Asks Trudeau for Help Ahead of Looming Refugee Housing Crisis

Why Global Citizens Should Care 
While historically a world leader in refugee resettlement, the United States appears to be shutting its doors as people fleeing human rights violations need the most help. As a result, Canada has seen a sharp increase in asylum seekers arriving from the US. You can join us by taking action here to call on world leaders to support refugees and migrants.

Another Ontario politician has asked Canada’s federal government for help in handling housing for asylum seekers and refugees as the city of Toronto prepares to lose a space housing hundreds of people.

Approximately 800 refugee and asylum claimants are housed in student residences in Toronto. The dorms must be cleared out on Aug. 9 to make room for returning students.

Lisa MacLeod, the provincial minister in charge of immigration, said on Friday that Ontario will face a crisis in August if the government doesn’t step in to help.

Take Action: Help The Most Marginalized and Vulnerable Find Shelter

"Those college dormitories are for students who are returning in the fall," MacLeod said. "That space will be needed. ... This is something that is very urgent. It is pressing, and we have a looming crisis."

The Canadian government did recently commit to funding $50 million for temporary housing for asylum seekers, with $11 million of that to be provided to Ontario, but Toronto Mayor John Tory said that the city had not yet received any funding to assist with housing.

MacLeod also said that the $11 million will not be enough to cover housing costs in Toronto alone.

Read More: Toronto Mayor Says the City's Shelters Can't Handle Surge of Asylum Seekers

"What I'm simply saying to the federal government (is), you have resources, you have assets in the city of Toronto, you're going to need to use those," she said. "We're at capacity now."

Ontario’s new premier, Doug Ford, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met last week to discuss the surge in border crossings.

The Ontario government blames Ottawa for the current housing crisis and has said it should 100% foot the bill for it.

Read More: Canadian Immigration Organizations Prepare for Migrant Influx From US

Following their meeting last Thursday, Trudeau suggested that Ford did not fully understand the asylum-seeking system.

"It didn’t seem to me that the premier was quite as aware of our international obligations to the UN Convention on Refugees as he might have been," he told reporters. "So I spent a little time explaining how the asylum-seeking system works and how our system is supposed to operate."

MacLeod added Friday that she feels the federal government invited the illegal border crossings and acted irresponsibly.

Read More: Canada Is Putting $50 Million Toward Temporary Housing for Asylum Seekers

Trudeau met with Tory on Friday, about a week after the Toronto mayor publicly announced that the city was in need of immediate support from federal and provincial levels.

Canada has seen a sharp increase in the number of asylum seekers crossing the border outside legal checkpoints over the last year.

In total, the RCMP intercepted 20,593 asylum seekers in 2017 — in comparison to 2,464 in 2016.

Read More: Amal Clooney at Toronto Event: 'The Worst Things Happen in Darkness'

While there is a looming crisis, Trudeau has also warned against anti-migrant rhetoric.

"Unfortunately conservative politicians here and around the world are playing a very dangerous game with something that shouldn't be fodder for division," the prime minister said on CBC Radio's Metro Morning. "Canadians are supportive of immigration and accepting refugees. They need to be reassured, as they can be, that we have a system in place that is going through all the processes."