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Federal government gives $7M to Peel Region for reception centre to welcome asylum seekers

Kamal Khera.

Kamal Khera, minister of diversity, inclusion and persons with disabilities, says the federal government will provide Peel Region with $7 million to help it open a new reception centre for asylum seekers near Pearson Airport.

Photo:  CBC / CBC

RCI

Minister Kamal Khera announced the funds in Brampton on Friday

The federal government says it will provide Peel Region with $7 million to help it open a new reception centre near Toronto's Pearson International Airport for asylum seekers. 

Kamal Khera, Minister of Diversity, Inclusion and Persons with Disabilities, told reporters in Brampton on Friday that the centre will provide streamlined support and services to asylum seekers. She made the announcement on behalf of Immigration Minister Marc Miller.

The centre will include a temporary shelter for newcomers and will be run with the help of community organizations, she said.

We know that the surge in asylum seekers has particularly strained resources here in Ontario, especially in the Greater Toronto Area, Khera said  In response to that, we have both increased our engagement and our resources.

In July, the government announced it would provide nearly $100 million to Toronto to help the city under the Interim Housing Assistance Program to relieve housing pressures stemming from increased numbers of asylum seekers.

To that end, we are working with provinces and municipalities to find more sustainable solutions, she said.

Khera's announcement comes after an asylum seeker, a man in his 40s, was found dead in a tent in a Mississauga encampment last week.

It will prevent another tragedy like the one we saw last week from occurring again, Khera said.

According to Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, the man had fled northern Nigeria and had come to Canada to seek a new life. Brown called for federal help after the man died. 

On Friday, Brown thanked the government for acting so quickly. Brown said the shelter will have 800 spaces and that two other shelters will be set up within weeks to provide an additional 250 spaces.

Brown said the additional spaces at the three new shelters will change the dynamic of the homelessness crisis in the Greater Toronto Area.

The Government of Canada stepped up and the magnitude of this announcement is not lost on me, Brown said. The Government of Canada has saved lives, prevented potentially hundreds of fatalities.

Brown said it will be a few months before the reception centre will be open.

Peel Regional Police have said a man in his 40s was found without vital signs in a tent in this encampment in Mississauga in the area of Dundas Street East and Dixie Road on Wednesday, Nov. 15.

Peel Regional Police have said a man in his 40s was found without vital signs in a tent in this encampment in Mississauga in the area of Dundas Street East and Dixie Road on Wednesday, Nov. 15.

Photo:  (CBC)

In a news release on Friday, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) said: The federal government has also procured temporary accommodations for short-term housing to alleviate the pressure on local shelters. The locations procured have been adjusted based on the local needs and growing demands. 

Toronto mayor 'pleased' with announcement

Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow, for her part, said in a statement that she is pleased that a reception centre will be set up for arriving refugees and asylum seekers.

They need a place to go when they arrive and an opportunity to access the immigration and refugee services they need. This new reception centre has the potential to serve as the focal point of a coordinated regional response that ensures refugees have a safe place and a good start to their lives in Canada, Chow said.

Next, we have to work together to address the needs of the thousands of refugees who have already arrived in shelters across the region, including the 5,100 the City of Toronto is currently supporting. We have an urgent homelessness crisis, Toronto's shelters are full as we accommodate nearly 11,000 people each night.

Chow said she is looking forward to working with the government to ensure refugees who arrive in Toronto can find shelter, housing and the services they need.

Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown speaks to reporters on Thursday, saying it is time for the federal government to provide more funding to house asylum seekers in Peel Region. His comments come after a man who sought refuge in Peel Region was found dead in a tent on Wednesday.

Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown speaks to reporters on Thursday, saying it is time for the federal government to provide more funding to house asylum seekers in Peel Region. His comments come after a man who sought refuge in Peel Region was found dead in a tent on Wednesday.

Photo:  (CBC)

On Wednesday, Miller announced that the government has offered $5 million to help the City of Toronto open the Better Living Centre at Exhibition Place to create spaces for asylum seekers this winter.

That offer came in response to a letter by Chow to Defence Minister Bill Blair and Emergency Preparedness Minister Harjit Sajjan asking them to open the federal armouries in Toronto for use as emergency shelters.

Khera said the $5 million offer to Toronto is still on the table and the government is still waiting for a formal request for assistance from the Ontario government about Toronto's ask to open the armouries.

I hope that the City of Toronto will take that offer, she said.

Muriel Draaisma (new window) · CBC News

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