Quebec premier wants Trudeau to discourage asylum seekers from coming to Canada

The Quebec government is welcoming a federal government move to send most of the asylum seekers who enter Canada through an irregular crossing in southern Quebec outside the province.

A spokesman for Quebec Immigration Minister Christine Fréchette said Wednesday that of the 125 migrants who entered Canada at the Roxham Road crossing on Monday, 102 were transferred out of the province. Fréchette had revealed on Tuesday that all but eight of the roughly 380 asylum seekers who entered at Roxham Road on Saturday and Sunday were sent to other provinces.

“We hope this will continue,” Alexandre Lahaie, the spokesman, said in an interview. He said community organizations in Quebec are under too much pressure to deal with the influx of migrants, adding that it appears the federal government “understands the need to act.”

In Ottawa, Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Quebec lieutenant, said negotiations are ongoing with other provinces to redirect migrants entering Quebec.

“We recognize that Quebec has done more than its share, and we thank the government of Quebec for that. In fact, we are in discussion with other provinces to lighten the burden on Quebec,” Rodriguez told reporters Wednesday. He noted that some other provinces are in need of workers.

“There’s nobody who’s going to be pushed or anything. It’s done on a voluntary basis. But we recognize that Quebec’s effort here is colossal, and we’ve been there to support it since the beginning,” he said.

A federal government official speaking on background said the government has been moving migrants entering Quebec to other provinces since the summer.

Federal government statistics show that 39,171 asylum seekers were intercepted by the RCMP on Quebec’s southern border in 2022, up from 4,095 in 2021. They accounted for more than 99 per cent of all asylum seekers who crossed the Canadian border irregularly in 2022.

Earlier on Wednesday, Quebec Premier François Legault called on Trudeau to discourage the migrants who have been using Roxham Road from coming to Canada.

Legault told reporters in Quebec City he thinks many people are claiming asylum in Canada because of a 2017 Trudeau tweet saying the country would welcome people fleeing persecution.

“It’s about time that Justin Trudeau makes a new tweet to say, ‘Don’t come anymore,’ because we’ve exceeded our welcoming capacity,” he said. He added that Quebec faces a shortage of housing, places in schools and hospital capacity.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 15, 2023.

With files from Dylan Robertson in Ottawa 

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