Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada remains welcoming to newcomers even as his government takes steps to curb the influx of asylum seekers coming into the country at unofficial entry points.
Speaking at a news conference in Mississauga on Thursday, Trudeau said Canadians continue to be “overwhelmingly in favour” of immigration even though the issue has become “politically charged” here and south of the border.
“One of the reasons Canadians do have confidence in immigration as a positive force in our country is because they have confidence in our immigration system,” he added.
“We are dealing with larger than usual numbers and have had to make investments to account for that but the integrity of our immigration system continues to hold.”
More than 40,000 people have crossed into Canada on foot through fields and forests since 2017.
Trudeau’s comments come days after his government presented a budget that includes a new border-enforcement strategy aimed at detecting, intercepting and removing irregular migrants.
The plan, which is expected to cost $1.18 billion over five years, includes more funding for the Canada Border Services Agency and the RCMP to beef up enforcement at the border, as well as money to speed up the processing of asylum claims.
Some provinces, particularly Quebec and Ontario, have called on Ottawa to reimburse them for hundreds of millions of dollars in housing and other expenses they say have been incurred in accommodating the flow of asylum seekers.
The budget did not set aside money for provincial immigration costs, but Trudeau said his government will continue to work with provinces and municipalities to relieve that pressure.
In Mississauga, the Prime Minister met Bonnie Crombie, the city’s mayor, and visited the MiWay bus maintenance garage to” highlight” the Municipal Infrastructure top-up announced in Budget 2019.
The top-up will double the amount of money that municipalities get through the gas tax transfer for 2018-19.
“ With the municipal infrastructure top-up, we are taking real, concrete steps to directly provide cities and towns with more funding so they can invest it where people need it the most,” Trudeau said.
“The federal government recognizes that cities have the local expertise to deal with local matters, and we need direct funding and tools to ensure we can build stronger, more prosperous communities. City building is nation building,” he added.
Mayor Crombie said she was pleased with the announcement by the federal government to double the federal gas tax for Mississauga.
She pointed out that “the commitment to double the gas tax funding this year will significantly help cities like Mississauga maintain aging infrastructure and build new transit, roads, cycling infrastructure, and much more.”