Pallister repeats call for federal refugee support money

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Pallister repeats call for federal refugee support money

The message is the same but the language and tone took a slightly more adamant turn Thursday, as Premier Brian Pallister again called on the federal government for help to address the ongoing wave of asylum seekers entering Manitoba.

"This problem needs the attention of the prime minister," Pallister said. "Illegal immigration is putting desperate asylum seekers — and those who give them aid — at risk."

Pallister said Manitoba has done its fair share and accepted more than 200 asylum seekers since the start of 2017, the most per capita of any province.

"Manitobans have responded generously and compassionately to this crisis, and so has our government."

The premier said the province has diverted additional resources into health care coverage, temporary housing, employment income assistance, direct employment and labour market supports in response to the influx — areas Pallister says the Trudeau government needs to help fund.

Newcomers have also been provided legal aid assistance and child protection placements for minors who have crossed the border.

Pallister said he wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to advise him of the situation and ask for a bilateral partnership agreement, similar to the model for government-assisted refugees, as well as an extension of current support arrangements for refugees.

Going it alone

Pallister said it's unfair for the federal government to stand by and watch while others in Manitoba take on all the risk and "heavy lifting."

"This is asking a lot of a province of our size," he said.

The high risk of a spring flood in southern Manitoba underscores the sense of urgency and need for resources from the federal government, Pallister said.

"We need to act. In four or five weeks' time, we are at significant risk of a spring flood. The flow of people coinciding with the flow of water is dangerous," Pallister said.

Ralph Goodale, Canada's public safety minister, and Jim Carr, Winnipeg South Centre member of Parliament, offered up about $30,000 for front-line emergency services during a recent visit to Emerson, Pallister said.

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Read full coverage of refugees crossing the U.S. border into Manitoba 

The border town, located 100 kilometres south of Winnipeg, has been one of the main points of entry into Canada for refugee claimants who continue to walk through snow-covered fields to get into Manitoba.

'Root causes'

Both ministers agreed to speak with U.S. homeland security officials about ongoing challenges along the border, but Pallister said that's not good enough. He wants the federal government to ensure President Donald Trump is looped in and "fully aware of what is going on to be sure that he understands the circumstances and the dangers of the situation."

"To fail to address that is to fail to address the root causes of what we're dealing with here," Pallister said, adding he plans to speak with North Dakota governor Doug Burgum next week.

"We need work done to assist us in dealing with the receiving end, but we also need work done in reaching out and addressing the causes of the situation in the United States."

The province is also asking for more English-language training assistance as well as support for refugee housing, health care and other costs.

Several Manitoba organizations learned recently they would be losing federal funding for advanced-level English language courses.