Montreal’s Big O made tem­po­rary shel­ter af­ter sud­den in­flux of asy­lum seek­ers at bor­der

Cross­ings at Que­bec bor­der have sky­rock­eted this year

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - SID­HARTHA BANER­JEE

Montreal’s iconic Olympic Sta­dium will be the first place some new­com­ers to Canada call home, with the venue be­ing used as a tem­po­rary shel­ter for asy­lum seek­ers.

The first groups were bused to the sta­dium on Wed­nes­day as Que­bec con­tin­ues to man­age a re­cent in­flux of peo­ple en­ter­ing the province from the United States.

Vol­un­teers from the Que­bec Red Cross helped set up the cav­ernous fa­cil­ity for a tem­po­rary stay with cots and food in the ro­tunda.

Francine Dupuis, who over­sees a Que­bec gov­ern­ment-funded pro­gram that helps asy­lum seek­ers get on their feet, said the num­bers are not what they’re used to han­dling.

The sta­dium was just a tem­po­rary so­lu­tion to deal with the sud­den in­crease and will only be used for a cou­ple of months, she said.

“We were us­ing ho­tels and it’s too many places to man­age with too few rooms,” Dupuis said. “And there aren’t so many places that can ac­com­mo­date 300 peo­ple like this.”

Dupuis said with as many as 100 peo­ple com­ing in daily, she has been hunt­ing for se­condary spots to house peo­ple.

“We need to take all the of­fers that are be­ing made to us.”

Ac­cord­ing to re­cent fed­eral gov­ern­ment data, fig­ures for June sug­gested a “pro­nounced shift” in the num­ber of peo­ple ar­riv­ing in Canada at the Que­bec-U.S. bor­der.

Na­tion­ally, the RCMP in­ter­cepted 884 peo­ple who crossed into Canada at reg­u­lar ports of en­try in June, up from 742 the month be­fore. Of those, 781 were caught in Que­bec.

Over­all, Que­bec has ac­counted for 3,350 of the 4,345 peo­ple who have crossed into Canada this year, as of late June.

Many of those ar­riv­ing Wed­nes­day were of Haitian de­scent.

In the United States, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is con­sid­er­ing end­ing a pro­gram that granted Haitians so-called “tem­po­rary pro­tected sta­tus” fol­low­ing the mas­sive earth­quake that struck in 2010.

If the pro­gram isn’t ex­tended, as many as 60,000 Haitians could be sent back to their home­land.

Dupuis said she’s been told many plan to move on to On­tario, but oth­ers who speak only Cre­ole may take ad­van­tage of Montreal’s large Haitian pop­u­la­tion.

Guil­laume An­dre, a Montreal com­mu­nity worker, said he’s helped some peo­ple who have ar­rived pre­vi­ously from the United States.

“Some of them have par­ents here, friends here, who can help them,” said An­dre, one of sev­eral Haitian-Mon­treal­ers who wel­comed the new ar­rivals at the Olympic Sta­dium on Wed­nes­day.

“We’re here to see how we, too, can pro­vide help to them.”

Montreal Mayor De­nis Coderre, an out­spo­ken critic of the U.S. ad­min­is­tra­tion’s im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies, went on Twit­ter to wel­come Haitian ar­rivals and tell them they can count on the city.

Coderre later tweeted that, ac­cord­ing to his own sources, there were 2,500 new ar­rivals in Que­bec via the United States in July, with as many as 500 cur­rently held at St-Bernard-de-La­colle, at the Que­bec-New York State bor­der.

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