Ottawa responds to Hamilton mayor’s plea for refugee housing aid
Published August 11, 2023 at 1:23 pm
The new federal Immigration Minister Marc Miller has responded to Mayor Andrea Horwath’s letter urging Ottawa for more funding to help Hamilton house refugees and asylum seekers, according to a senior government source.
“It’s an incredibly collaborative approach that we’re taking and we’re working very, very closely with the City in order to find permanent, sustainable solutions,” said the federal official, who spoke on background and did not want to provide her name, in a recent phone interview with inthehammer.com. “Minister Miller is coming at this from a very collaborative standpoint and I think that was well-received. … I would say the federal government and City of Hamilton are ready to collaborate and are ready to move forward and to support these people.”
The official said Miller is also encouraging Horwath and the City to “engage the province because this is a much broader issue that requires three levels of government as historically has been the case.”
In Horwath’s initial letter on July 25, she asked the feds for $9.095 million in immediate funding for the City of Hamilton, among other requests, to help cope with the “alarming rise” in refugees and asylum seekers within the shelter system, stressing how the City’s emergency response systems could collapse.
The mayor did not immediately provide inthehammer.com with an update on the request.
The federal official said Miller, the new immigration minister, responded to Horwath’s letter on July 30.
She said the province is actually responsible for asylum seekers once they land in Canada while the feds are in charge of the refugee file.
“We are really there and have always been there to support the municipality and then province when needed,” said the senior official. “I think we saw that not just in the $700 million we’ve given for the Interim Housing Assistance Program but also to the $212 million top-up to that.”
From the $212 million that was provided for the Interim Housing Assistance Program (IHAP), $97 million is going to Toronto while the rest will be allocated to two other cities including Hamilton. “So we are in talks with Hamilton to ensure that support can be provided throughout and to ensure that they can also go to other provincial counterparts to get the support that they require,” the official added.
According to the government’s website, IHAP is a grant providing financial support to provinces and municipal governments “to address extraordinary interim housing pressures resulting from increased volumes of asylum claimants entering Canada.”
As a first step, she said Miller has gotten the ball rolling by sending a formal request through the Interim Housing Assistance Program for the $9 million Horwath asked for in immediate funding.
Horwath’s letter was originally addressed to then-immigration minister Sean Fraser before the federal cabinet shuffle shifted him to the housing, infrastructure and communities portfolio. Horwath has since written a new letter to Miller, who replaced Fraser, which essentially contains the same requests and information.
Miller, a childhood friend of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, became Canada’s minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship on July 26.
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Congrats @MarcMillerVM on your new portfolio as the Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship. I look forward to working with you to address the care and housing of refugees and asylum seekers in #HamOnt. Sharing my recent letter so it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle! pic.twitter.com/EmJXEFXRyW
— Andrea Horwath (@AndreaHorwath) July 27, 2023