The Ontario government says it will be providing Toronto with $26.4 million to provide urgent assistance to asylum-seekers as part of a $42 million fund to support communities across the province to do the same.
The announcement came Monday as Premier Doug Ford met with Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow for the first time since she took office earlier this summer.
According to the province, the money will flow through the Canada Ontario Housing Benefit (COHB) program.
Chow had been calling for help from higher levels of government after the city’s maxed out shelters said they could no longer take in asylum seekers in the spring, resulting in hundreds of them sleeping on the street outside a shelter intake centre downtown.
Community groups stepped in to provide immediate assistance with food, clothing and temporary shelter space in churches and the federal government eventually pledged $97 million to help the city care for asylum seekers.
The city has said that about a third of those using the municipal shelter system are refugees and asylum seekers. Other communities around the GTA have also said their shelter services have been overwhelmed by asylum seekers in recent months.
Unlike those who arrive with official refugee status in Canada, asylum seekers fleeing fear of persecution in their homes countries are ineligible for most federal programs.
According to the province, the $42 million will help approximately $4,000 households across Ontario, helping move more people into housing and thereby freeing up existing shelter spaces in impacted communities.
“Of the $42 million, $26.4 million will be allocated to the City of Toronto reflective of its share of asylum claimants and impact on local services,” the province said in its release. “The province continues to advocate strongly for Ontario municipalities and service managers to ensure they receive their fair share of federal funding to address the significant, ongoing rise in asylum claimants.”
Chow and Ford are expected to provide more detail about their meeting at a news conference this afternoon.
After saying a possible Chow win in Toronto’s mayoral election would be an “unmitigated disaster” for Toronto, Ford was forced to backtrack following Chow’s win. Chow in turn has been critical about Ford’s plans to revamp Ontario Place with a large private spa and waterpark and to merge it with the Ontario Science Centre on the remaining land at the waterfront.
Still, the two have vowed to work together on moving the city’s priorities forward on issues like housing, transit and other files.