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French-speaking asylum seekers say they were taken out of Quebec against their will and are now unable to access services in a language they understand.
Guerlin William arrived in Canada on 11 February via the Roxham Road, an irregular border crossing south of Montreal. With his wife, Dillian Dasias, and their 4-year-old son. This, he thought, was the end of a long, perilous journey through the Americas after leaving Haiti and crossing several countries.
The couple speak French and wanted to stay in Montreal, but were put on a bus to Niagara Falls, Ontario, Mr. William said. “I was very surprised because I don’t speak English,” he said in French during an interview.
Since last June, when the federal government began moving asylum seekers from Quebec to Ontario, thousands of asylum seekers have been sent to Niagara Falls by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. The IRCC is now working with other provinces and municipalities to identify destinations that have the capacity to accommodate them, said spokeswoman Michelle Carbert.
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In an e-mail, she said department staff “reviewed a consent document with the claimants … and the claimants acknowledge that by boarding the bus they voluntarily relocated outside of Quebec to live in IRCC temporary housing.” Accepting to be.”
Ms. Dasias, who is about seven months pregnant, needs medical attention, but according to her husband, they have not been able to find a French-speaking doctor or have access to a translator during medical appointments. “They ask us questions in English, but we don’t know how to answer them,” Mr. William said.
A Haitian family living temporarily in a Niagara Falls hotel plans to take a bus to Montreal as soon as they can save enough money to buy tickets from Ontario social assistance and find a place to stay. Mr William said there are other French-speaking refugees at his hotel who are planning to do the same.
“These are people who came here thinking they had found the ideal place to live and then we took them there. No, it is not acceptable,” said Frantz Andre, a spokesman for the Non-Status Action Committee, a Montreal-based immigrants’ rights advocacy group. “If [Quebec Premier François Legault] If you want to preserve the French language, why not keep people who speak very good French instead of sending them where they are once again going through stress they don’t need? he said in an interview.
Last month, Mr Legault wrote in a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that thousands of arrivals coming through Roxham Road would contribute to “the decline of French in Montreal” because many of them do not speak the language. He also said that the province’s social services could not handle any more asylum seekers and asked the federal government to “take all necessary means to distribute asylum seekers … to other provinces, regardless of the applicant’s status”. Whatever the profile.
Mr. Legault and his government have been adamant that the protection of the French language is one of their main concerns and that because of this, the province cannot welcome more immigrants.
In an e-mail to , the provincial ministry of immigration, franchise and integration reiterated Mr. Legault’s request that all asylum seekers coming from Roxham Road be sent to other provinces. “The impact of the mass arrival … on access to public services and housing is increasingly being felt,” spokeswoman Ariane Methot wrote without answering questions related to language. He noted that the transfer of asylum seekers from Quebec to other provinces is the responsibility of the federal government.
Ms. Carbert said Quebec “has reached a point where they are no longer in a position to accept any more claimants” who come from informal border crossings. He added that transfers to other provinces are not tracked by language of preference and could not provide statistics on the matter.
About 40,000 asylum seekers caught entering Canada at unregulated ports of entry in 2022, with only 369 of them in provinces other than Quebec. About 5,000 people were arrested in January 2023, of which 4,875 were in Quebec. Most of them came via Roxham Road, which connects Champlain, NY and Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Que.
Under the Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the United States, asylum seekers must first file their claims in either country, which means they will be turned back if they attempt to cross the official border into Canada. will be given. About 20,000 asylum seekers could be claimed in Quebec in 2022 at official points of entry.
Francophone asylum seekers want to return to Quebec
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