Miller “never had the impression” that Quebec wanted to discuss asylum seekers

The Quebec government does not really want to have a serious discussion with Ottawa on the costs and social consequences caused by the influx of asylum seekers, believes the federal Minister of Immigration, Marc Miller.

“The reality is that I never had the impression from the Quebec government that they really wanted to sit down,” he declared Tuesday during a press scrum upon his arrival at the cabinet meeting.

According to him, François Legault’s government mainly wants to discuss “in the public square” and that “is not the way to do things between responsible governments.”

Called to react, the Quebec Minister of Immigration, Christine Fréchette, judges that Mr. Miller “completely denies reality”.

In a statement sent to The Canadian Press, Fréchette maintains that, “for months”, Quebec has been “increasing” discussions with the federal government on the subject of asylum seekers “both in person, on the telephone, and in writing”.

The government of François Legault announced last week that it is demanding that Ottawa pay it $1 billion to reimburse what it has cost it to welcome asylum seekers since 2019. The bill has thus more than doubled compared to what was announced at the start of the year.

On Tuesday, Mr. Miller, who reiterated that Quebec “is doing more than its fair share,” noted that officials from both levels of government met in the last few days to “sort” the requested amounts.

He paused in his comments as he lamented that “overnight” Quebec “threw” him “another $500 million in a press briefing.”

“Some nerve”

Minister Miller “does not lack nerve” with his comments, protested the Bloc Québécois immigration spokesperson, Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe, during question period.

“Since 2021, Quebec has been asking the federal government to reimburse the costs and distribute the reception,” he protested. Three years ! […] Does he realize that if he paid his debts since 2021 and if he negotiated instead of hiding, there would be no problems today? »

In his response, Mr. Miller provoked cries in the House of Commons when he suggested that Quebec is doubling the bill “without justifying the amounts requested.”

Moreover, those who welcome asylum seekers in his downtown Montreal constituency “have not received a penny” from the Quebec government, he claimed, pointing to his desk.

In addition to demanding a billion, Quebec insists that Ottawa slow down the arrival of asylum seekers in the country and that they be better distributed between the provinces.

The minister responsible for Canadian Relations and the French Language, Jean-François Roberge, went so far last week as to assert that Quebec is approaching a “humanitarian crisis” if it is unable to provide services and judged that Quebec identity could be threatened.

Currently, the province calculates that it welcomes 55% of asylum seekers who arrive in the country. But the federal government qualifies that a quarter of them leave Quebec.

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