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Social assistance | The number of service providers is exploding



Asylum seekers arriving via Roxham Road are driving up the number of welfare recipients due to the federal government’s delay in issuing work permits. Only as a last resort, it costs 20 million more per month to Quebec, which asks Ottawa to pick up the bill.

According to the latest report from the Ministry of Employment and Social Solidarity, 48,835 adults on the island of Montreal, able to work, received social assistance benefits last November. This is an increase of 5% compared to the previous month and 73.3% in one year. They were 28,179 in November 2021.

“What we have seen for a year is that the increase is mainly due to asylum seekers. This is a situation that we see especially in Montreal,” noted Catherine Tragnée, community organizer for the Common Front of people on social assistance in Quebec.

“The number of adult recipients of social assistance programs is increasing due to the increase in the number of asylum seekers receiving benefits,” confirms the Ministry of Employment and Social Solidarity (MESS) in an email.

The number of asylum seekers who receive welfare checks on 1er of the month has gone from 12,958 in 2021 to 37,754 in 2022. These are actually concentrated in Montreal in almost all cases, according to MESS statistics.

“For a long time, we thought that immigration was a world in a silo separated from other worlds,” comments Professor Chedly Belkhodja, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Immigration (CEPI) at Concordia University. . We provide specific services to immigrants, and immigrants will not find themselves asking for services in other places dedicated to vulnerable people. There, we wake up. We see that vulnerability issues affect different populations [y compris la population immigrante]. »

On January 23, community groups publicly testified to their exhaustion in the face of the growing needs of asylum seekers using their services. The Round Table of Organizations Serving Refugees and Immigrants (TCRI) is calling for immediate aid measures from governments.

In Quebec as a whole, there were 97,637 people receiving social assistance without employment constraints in November 2022, compared to 75,286 people a year ago, an increase of 30%.

Deadlines for the work permit

The dramatic increase in the number of asylum seekers in the country is causing longer delays in the issuance of work permits by the Canadian government. Unable to earn a living legally, claimants are forced to remain on social assistance.

Given the federal government’s delays in obtaining a work permit, asylum seekers remain on average 10.5 months on last-resort financial assistance.

Catherine Poulin, spokesperson for the Ministry of Employment and Social Solidarity

Last November, Radio-Canada reported that Ottawa was implementing the Temporary Public Policy aimed at issuing work permits to asylum seekers a month after their arrival rather than a year as is often the current case.

“Quebec is closely monitoring the effects of the initiatives announced by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) aimed at reducing processing times,” says Arianne Méthot, communications manager. at the Ministry of Immigration, Francisation and Integration (MIFI).

The increased traffic in the offices of Emploi-Québec comes with an invoice. Social assistance benefits fell from 85 million in November 2021 to 105 million for the same month in 2022, an inflation of 20 million.

Under the social assistance program, the average monthly benefit paid is $801.50.

Quebec assumes the costs of a set of services for asylum seekers, including last-resort financial assistance, says MIFI.

It is the Regional Program for the Reception and Integration of Asylum Seekers (PRAIDA) which offers services to asylum seekers and people in regularization of status. On its website, PRAIDA writes that medical coverage for asylum seekers is provided by the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP).

The Legault government is still counting on the conclusion of a long-term agreement with Ottawa so that the federal government reimburses the costs incurred for the reception of asylum seekers, writes the MIFI.

Roxham Road

The increased influx on social assistance coincides with the dramatic increase in the number of asylum seekers entering the country irregularly via Roxham Road.


Asylum seekers arriving in the country via Roxham Road are intercepted on the spot by the police.

In 2018, 18,215 irregular asylum applications in Quebec were counted, a pre-pandemic peak, two years after migrants began to flock to Roxham Road. This figure subsequently decreased due to the pandemic. It exploded last year. More than 39,000 irregular requests were registered last year.

Canada’s asylum system is the exclusive responsibility of the federal government under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Actunderlines the MESS.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada did not immediately respond to requests we made to them on Wednesday.

Seven things to know about Roxham Road

  • Located in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Montérégie, it is an increasingly popular irregular entry route for asylum seekers wishing to come to Canada from the United States.
  • Under the Safe Third Country Agreement, concluded between Ottawa and Washington in 2004, a person who has applied for asylum in the United States will be turned back at the border crossing if they want to enter Canada, and vice versa, hence the popularity of Roxham Road.
  • He first made headlines in 2016, when the issue of asylum seekers surfaced in the public space.
  • After peaking in admissions in 2018, it closed in March 2020 due to the pandemic, then reopened a year and a half later in November 2021.
  • Last year, 39,171 asylum seekers were intercepted at Roxham Road, with a peak of 4,689 interceptions in December, a 26% increase from the previous month, which seems to indicate that the phenomenon is not letting up. .
  • For the past few months, approximately 20% of asylum seekers arriving by this route have been transferred to Ontario, while the others remain in Quebec.
  • Quebec assumes all the costs related to the reception of asylum seekers, an invoice that it then sends to the federal government according to the number of migrants received during the year.

Vincent Larin, La Presse

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