Jacques Boissinot The Canadian Press “If we continue to receive people by the tens of thousands, in a very short time, in an unplanned manner and concentrated in the same region, that is Montreal in our case, it is certain that we are approaching at greater speed of a [tipping point],” Christine Fréchette said on Wednesday.
Sébastien Tanguay in Quebec
The rapid and improvised arrival of tens of thousands of asylum seekers brings Quebec closer to a “tipping point”, according to the Minister of Immigration, Christine Fréchette, who is asking Ottawa to act “urgently” to avoid creating a “frankly less welcoming climate” for new arrivals.
Between January and November 2023, Quebec welcomed 59,000 asylum seekers and December was on track to add another 4,000 to the count. This is too much, in the eyes of the Quebec government, which is urging the federal government to respect its already saturated reception capacity.
“Quebec provides too much of the reception for asylum seekers who arrive in Canada,” the Minister of Immigration lamented on Wednesday. In Ontario, they are roughly level with their demographic weight. In Quebec, we represent between 22 and 23% of Canadians, but we receive more than 45% of Canada's asylum seekers. This is a capacity that we cannot maintain over the long term – I would even say in the short term. »
Asylum seekers are more complicated cases for public authorities to manage and integrate, explains the minister. “These are people who arrive and for whom there is not a particular job waiting for them. We do not know their skills, they focus largely on Montreal […] and they have profiles which mean that sometimes their cases are more demanding in terms of support and help, for example in health care. »
According to Christine Fréchette, “it is urgent” that the federal government “changes the way it manages this issue.” In particular, it calls for tightening the granting of visas and better distributing asylum seekers “across all the provinces. »
“We have been saying it for a long time: our reception capacity has reached its maximum limit in relation to asylum seekers,” insisted Christine Fréchette on the sidelines of a speech delivered Wednesday morning to the Chamber of Commerce and Industry from Quebec.
“If we continue to receive people by the tens of thousands, in a very short time, in an unplanned manner and concentrated in the same region, that is Montreal in our case, it is certain that we are approaching at greater speed a tipping point. »
Beyond this “tipping point”, the social tensions generated by immigration could be exacerbated, the minister believes, since public services and the housing market are already struggling to meet demand. “If we completely ignore this logistical reality, particularly in real estate and [in] other services, it could raise issues which would create a frankly less welcoming climate. »
Ottawa must intervene “urgently” to “avoid coming to this,” insists Christine Fréchette.
“We must not skip this climax which would take us into another dynamic. We must take action quickly, precisely to avoid it being too late. It’s hard, after that, to bring things back together. »
The “closure” of Roxham Road in the spring of 2023 gave the Quebec government some respite, according to the minister. “Fortunately there was the closure of Roxham Road and the agreement with the United States,” she says. Otherwise we would have what ? 70,000 people ? 80,000 perhaps ? Who would continue to arrive via Roxham Road in addition to those who arrive at the airport by regular routes. »
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reiterated on Tuesday his government's ambition to welcome half a million new arrivals starting in 2025. “That's not our direction,” replied the Quebec minister.
Earlier this week in Quebec, Canadian Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre detailed his vision of immigration on Radio-Canada. According to him, Canada should not welcome more immigrants than its capacity to create housing. “It’s a question,” he insisted, “of mathematics. »