In solidarity with asylum seekers and frontline churches and organizations
KAIROS Canada stands in solidarity with asylum seekers who have been forced to live on the streets of Toronto, and with the churches and frontline organizations that are assisting them.
We call on all levels of government to respond appropriately and comprehensively to this situation in a way that ensures the safety, protection, dignity and rights of refugees. Housing is a basic human right that Canada must afford to everyone without discrimination and regardless of origin, immigration status, and economic status. Governments must meet the growing influx of refugees and ensure that everyone is immediately housed, no matter where they are, in safe and temporary shelters towards more permanent accommodation with all the necessities provided.
We are deeply troubled that the refugees are caught in a crossfire between federal, provincial and the Toronto City governments, each claiming that the others need to do more. We recognize that this situation, which has forced people to be homeless, is further traumatizing for the refugees who have had to flee their homelands.
Refugees are under the mandate of the federal government, and it is at this level that we turn to for leadership on this crisis.
Recognizing the emergency, the federal government has injected $212 million into its Interim Housing Assistance Program to last until March 31. We agree with Mayor Olivia Chow that this contribution is a “welcome first step” but is not enough. We are dismayed by the federal government’s punting of Toronto’s request for additional emergency funds to Ontario.
This situation is part of a chronic problem, fueled by a lack of political will and the bureaucratic shortcomings that we have witnessed in Canada’s immigration system, specifically the Temporary Foreign Workers Program, which KAIROS has been involved in.
As an example of Canada’s problematic immigration system, the country is home to approximately 500,000 workers who are undocumented because they have escaped employer abuse and/or have fallen between bureaucratic cracks. KAIROS calls on Canada to work collaboratively with other governments and relevant departments and ministries to improve service delivery for refugees and migrant workers and close gaps and loopholes, and to fully regularize the undocumented.
In July 2022, KAIROS delivered its submission to the Ministerial Roundtable on Housing Standards for Temporary Foreign Workers, which addressed longstanding concerns about migrant worker accommodation, including the housing crisis. Now, as then, we urge the government of Canada to work with relevant departments, other governments, migrant workers, and migrant support organizations to develop a national housing strategy in support of an essential worker and refugee immigration policy. The influx of asylum seekers in Toronto and other Canadian cities will likely continue to rise. Many people are fleeing their homes due to extreme weather events, conflict and other security threats that are exacerbated by climate change. We urge Canada to take the lead in drafting an International Protocol to recognize and protect the rights of climate affected and forced migrants and to lobby the United Nations for its adoption and ratification.