Refugee claimants flooding Toronto facilities

The City of Toronto’s Office of Emergency Management has activated its Contingency Plan for Emergency Social Services to temporarily house the increasing numbers of refugee claimants arriving in Toronto.

On May 24, the City will begin temporarily housing refugee claimants and new arrivals in 400 beds at the Centennial College Residence and Conference Centre in Scarborough. As of June 1, the City will also begin using 400 beds at Humber College in Etobicoke to house refugee claimants.

“As the City’s shelter system has reached its capacity to accommodate new refugee arrivals to Toronto, the Office of Emergency Management has activated a protocol to secure contingency housing sites and Red Cross staffing support,” said James Kilgour, Director, Office of Emergency Management. “This is part of the City’s compassionate and co-ordinated approach to dealing with unprecedented events and emergency situations.”

The Province of Ontario facilitated the availability of the college dormitories as part of the Contingency Plan for Emergency Social Services and have committed up to $3 million in Red Cross staffing costs as part of the anticipated $6.3 million total cost of operating these contingency sites for the next 75 days.

These contingency sites will only be available to the City until early August, when the rooms will be required for returning students. At that time, the City’s emergency protocol may require the use of municipal facilities, including active City community centres, to relocate refugee claimants in Toronto and accommodate new arrivals.

“Toronto has a long history of welcoming refugees but the City can no longer absorb the cost and impact of the increasing numbers of refugee claimants coming into the country,” said Mayor John Tory. “We have triggered our emergency protocol to help these families in their time of need, with some support from the Government of Ontario, but require the federal government to take immediate steps to permanently relieve this unprecedented pressure on the City’s shelter system.”

Since April 19, 368 refugee claimants have entered the City’s shelter system. The City has found permanent housing for 1,720 refugee claimants since January 1, 2017.

At the current rate of arrivals, the City projects that refugee claimants will represent more than 53.6 per cent of the City’s shelter population by November.

The City anticipates an incurred cost of $64.5 million by the end of 2018 in direct costs related to providing motel housing to refugee claimants. The additional $6.3 million anticipated cost of emergency contingency sites will increase this total.

An urgent request has been made to federal and provincial governments to provide a co-ordinated, regional response to rising numbers of refugee claimants seeking shelter services, including:
1. Federal and provincial-level coordination to facilitate placement of new arrivals to other locations outside of the City of Toronto’s shelter system, where there is capacity.
2. The introduction of a sustainable federal and provincial funding mechanism to address increases in housing/shelter demand at the municipal level and pressures related to irregular migrants/refugee claimants.
3. Additional resources, including non-municipal facilities and human resources to operate those facilities.
4. Reimbursement for all costs – including those incurred in 2017 and projected for 2018 – associated with responding to the needs of refugee-claimants in Toronto, including the $64.5 million for direct operations.
5. Federal-level action to better manage inter-provincial flows of refugee claimants and to facilitate faster processing of refugee claims through adequate Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada resources directed to process refugee claims in as short a period of time as possible.

— Wynna Brown