25 May 2018 0 Comments Posted By : Bruce Campion-Smith

Mayor John Tory says Ottawa has offered nothing to help deal with Toronto’s refugee crisis

OTTAWA—Toronto Mayor John Tory says he’s “frustrated” by Ottawa’s lack of response to private and public appeals by the city for federal funding and resources to cope with an influx of refugee claimants that is straining shelters.

“We’ve been talking to them basically nonstop . . . We just haven’t had any indication of any help at all. Zero,” Tory said in an interview Thursday.

“I just don’t think that’s fair,” he said of a growing crisis that is expected to cost municipal taxpayers at least $64.5 million in 2017 and 2018.

Tory said the city has a “crisis on our hands” as college dorm rooms are transformed into shelter spaces and public buildings like community centres might be next.

“We’ve had no help from the federal government. There’s been lots of talk and lots of discussions going on for a long time now,” he told the Star.

The city has been dealing with a “sharp” increase in the number of refugee claimants since 2016, part of a growing number of migrants crossing the Canadian border in Quebec and Manitoba from the United States.

By mid-May, there were 2,683 refugee claimants in the city’s shelter system making up about 40.8 per cent of the entire system. The city expects that to rise to 4,485 people or 53.6 per cent by November.

Tory said he began sounding the alarm in private conversations with federal officials last fall when refugees began to take up an increasing number of shelter spaces. “We could see the numbers rising in our shelter system,” Tory said.

In April, the city publicly called on Queen’s Park and Ottawa to respond and laid out a wishlist that included measures to place new arrivals outside of Toronto, new locations in the city to house refugees and reimbursement of costs.

Tory said he’s “unfailingly” supportive of the historic welcoming attitude of the country and city to new arrivals. “That’s not the issue here. The issue is when they’re coming in increasing numbers to Toronto . . . we just need help in looking after them when they get here,” he said.

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