FUNDING CUT THREATENS NEWCOMER CENTRE
THE PEACE BRIDGE NEWCOMER CENTRE, A unique model for helping integrate refugees right at the border, is fighting for its life.
Late last summer, the Canada Border Services Agency announced it was pulling its federal funding from the centre. Ironically, the announcement was made before the number of refugee claimants arriving at the Peace Bridge began to explode following the election of U.S. President Donald Trump.
“It turned us on our head,” said Martha Mason, executive director of the Fort Erie Multicultural Centre, which operates the Newcomer Centre.
The centre is the only one at a Canadian land border crossing where a non-governmental organization and CBSA work together on-site to help smooth the entry of asylum seekers.
“I think it’s something that is undervalued, or feels undervalued,” said Mason.
The centre still receives funding from the province, the United Way and the Region of Niagara but she admits it will be a challenge to figure out how to survive without the federal funding.
In a further irony, CBSA “begged us not to leave,” said Rosemary Legge, program director at the Newcomer Centre. “They respect what we do and value what we do.”
Mason said the Newcomer Centre model should actually be expanded to places such as Emerson, Man. and Lacolle, Que., where large numbers of refugee claimants have been flooding into Canada at unguarded border crossings.