Council refuses bus passes for asylum seekers

Nick Seebruch
Council refuses bus passes for asylum seekers
Nav Centre prepares for asylum seekers in August 2017. (Nick Wolochatiuk)

CORNWALL, Ontario – At the Cornwall City Council meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 22 council rejected a proposal to grant universal bus passes to asylum seekers who are staying at the Nav Centre.

Councillor Elaine MacDonald brought forth the idea and even moved to suspend Council’s normal rules so that the proposl could be enacted immediately without first getting a report from administration.

Councillor MacDonald said in the meeting that she wanted to see the City do something to welcome the asylum seekers to Cornwall. She had mentioned in a special meeting of Council the day beofre that she hoped that if Cornwall could demonstrate its hospitality that perhaps the asylum seekers might choose to make Cornwall their homes.

Council voted against the suspension of the rules to allow the bus passes to be issued to the asylum seekers immediately and rejected a following vote to even get a report from administration on the cost of the proposal.

Councillors Denis Carr, Maurice Dupelle, Andre Rivette, Justin Towndale and David Murphy all voted against the measure with councillors Elaine MacDonald, Bernadette Clement, Mark MacDonald and Carilyne Hebert voting infavour.

“The bottom line is that this scenario was created by the federal government, so let the federal government deal with it and pay for busing,” said Rivette. “It’s not our problem. I can see where you’re coming from, but it’s not our problem.”

City Social Housing and Services Manager Stacy Ferguson explained that the provincial government has purchased a limited number of bus tickets that are available for asylum seekers who want them, but there are not enough for everyone and would fall short of guaranteeing the same freedom of movement as a bus pass.

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