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HomePoliticsOttawa commits $362M to help provinces, municipalities house asylum seekers

Ottawa commits $362M to help provinces, municipalities house asylum seekers

The federal government is allocating an additional $362.4 million to help provinces, territories and municipalities house a growing influx of asylum seekers, Immigration Minister Marc Miller announced Wednesday.

The new funding will come from the Interim Housing Assistance Program, which assists provincial and municipal governments with the costs of operating shelter spaces for refugees, including hotels run by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

Miller said details about how the new money will be allocated will be announced in the coming days.

Yet he confirmed Wednesday that $100 million will be going to Quebec, whose premier has called for more help from Ottawa to address what he called an “unsustainable” flow of migrants into the province in a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier this month.

Miller repeatedly refused to answer questions from reporters on how much money will go to Toronto, which has also made repeated requests for federal help. But he said the city will get a “significant amount” of the funding top-up.

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“Sure, it’s a pressing issue for Toronto, and they’ll know in the coming days (how much money they will receive), it will be shared with them,” Miller said.

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Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow’s office has said it anticipates the cost of sheltering the approximately 4,000 refugees currently living in the city’s shelter system to balloon to $240 million this year, up from about $200 million in 2023.

Click to play video: 'Miller calls on Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow to provide ‘receipts’ for asylum seeker lodging'

Miller calls on Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow to provide ‘receipts’ for asylum seeker lodging

The office said the city expects Ottawa to cover that amount. But Wednesday’s announcement leaves $262.4 million for the rest of the country after Quebec’s allocation is removed from the total.

As of last week, about 7,300 asylum claimants in need of housing were staying in 4,000 hotel rooms in six provinces, according to the federal government.

The new funding is on top of the $212 million allocated through the Interim Housing Assistance Program last summer.

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Miller said the program is an important short-term measure that ensures refugees and asylum seekers are able to find temporary housing upon first arriving to Canada, particularly as immigration flows have grown at historic rates since 2017.

But he acknowledged the program is also in need of reform as those flows continue to rise and provinces and municipalities warn of strained resources.

“I think we owe it to Canadians to reform the system,” he said. “We’re seeing record numbers of movement across the Western Hemisphere, and that’s not going to change overnight.”

—With files from the Canadian Press

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