IRCC and Asylum Clamaints

Mayor Justin Towndale
IRCC and Asylum Clamaints

It’s a busy time for City Council and Administration. We just completed our budget deliberations and I will have separate commentary on that. In addition, there is a lot going on in our community, as we continue to distance ourselves from the pandemic and start to get into the routine of hosting and attending events once again. I wanted to use this space to comment on one of the most critical issues in our community at this time. That of the asylum claimants currently present in our city.

There has been a lot of media coverage on this topic as of late. This is thanks in large part to our MP, Eric Duncan, who put out a press release and followed up by raising the issue in the House of Commons. Shortly thereafter, Senator Bernadette Clement further raised the issue in a Committee meeting. From there, media interest grew and my office has received numerous inquiries from local, regional and national media. While Cornwall has housed numerous displaced persons in the past, admittedly, this time has been different.

In previous instances, the City has seen better communication and a more collaborative approach from the federal government. Regrettably, this was not the case this time. When we started to raise our concerns about the impact on our services and the direct costs that we were incurring to the federal government, they were not receptive. The City is currently tracking costs related to administration, policing, and loss in economic revenue.  Our current estimates place the dollar amount of these direct costs in the vicinity of $2.3 million. This is a large amount for our community to complete absorb and is why we were raising this issue with the federal government.

It took some time, but after what I will call the ‘media blitz’, we started to see a more receptive response from the federal government. We had a meeting with an Assistant Deputy Minister and senior staff a couple of weeks ago. This past week, we had a virtual meeting with Minister Fraser and his staff. In both meetings, our concerns were taken seriously, and I do believe that a more productive, and positive relationship between the City and IRCC will be forthcoming.

Most recently, this past Sunday, a meeting was held between IRCC and numerous community agencies. This meeting was organized by Senator Clement and MPP Nolan Quinn in consultation with my office. MP Duncan also attended. I do believe that the discussion was productive overall and helped to answer some questions from our local agencies about their concerns surrounding resources and how they can help. However, as has been said before, a meeting is not an outcome. Now the ball in is IRCC’s court to produce measurable results from all of these meetings and discussions. I remain cautiously optimistic in terms of compensation for our costs, but truthfully, only time will tell.

Unfortunately, the topic of asylum claimants is ultimately too large to be covered in a single column. There are many more facets to this issue. For example, numerous PSWs have been hired from this cohort to help alleviate the burdens on our healthcare sector. There are other, similar, good news stories which can show a positive economic and societal impact.  As such, I look forward to providing updates as this issue evolves.

In closing, I wanted to take a minute to thank our Senator, MP and MPP for their constant communication, collaboration, and support on this issue. It is clear that we are getting results because everyone is working together to ensure the best outcomes for our community.

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