Watson asks Trudeau to pay cost of housing asylum seekers

Watson asks Trudeau to pay cost of housing asylum seekers

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson is asking the federal government to repay the city for providing emergency shelter to asylum seekers.

An influx of asylum seekers from the United States, mostly of whom arrived via Montreal, have put a strain on the city's resources, Watson wrote in a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday.

That led to a $5.7-million deficit in the budget for emergency shelter expenses that the city had to absorb, he wrote.

Earlier this year, U.S. President Donald Trump lifted the temporary protected status given to more than 100,000 mostly Central American citizens living in the United States for humanitarian reasons. That has created fear and uncertainty, and led many to flee to Canada.

From Aug. 10, 2017, to June 30, 2018, the city's family shelter received 405 placement requests from asylum seekers arriving in Ottawa from the United States, Watson wrote.

"The City of Ottawa is experiencing unexpected and substantial costs as a consequence of the irregular migration currently taking place," he wrote. "Providing an adequate response to arriving asylum seekers requires expanded and ongoing financial support and resources from other levels of government."

The city wants reimbursement for all shelter expenses, including housing subsidies, related to asylum seekers, retroactive to 2017.

Provinces asking for more money

Watson is one of several politicians to speak with or write to Trudeau about the growing cost of sheltering asylum seekers.

The federal government pledged $50 million to Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba to offset some of the costs of handling the influx.

But provinces and cities have said that money falls far short of what they need.

Quebec, which received $36 million, has said its costs are closer to $146 million.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has demanded the federal government pay "100 per cent" of the costs, while Lisa MacLeod, Ontario's minister of children, community and social services, suggested the $11 million the federal government is handing the province may only cover "one-tenth" of the actual cost.

Toronto mayor John Tory has estimated his city has already spent $64 million to handle and house asylum seekers.

In his letter to Trudeau, Watson called the $11 million given to the province "a welcome first step," but said it "is not adequate to address the current and ongoing needs of municipalities in this context."