CORNWALL, Ont. — Local politicians say they’re reassured after meeting Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale to discuss plans to deal with an influx of asylum-seekers from Haiti.
A tented camp being erected by the Canadian Forces neared completion Wednesday and will soon be able to house up to 500 people on the grounds of the Nav Centre, a privately run, non-profit, 28-hectare conference centre.
Goodale toured the temporary housing site, where he spoke to Nav Centre and government employees who are helping the refugee claimants, before meeting the mayor and councillors.
In a written statement afterwards, he thanked the people of Cornwall “for being understanding and welcoming to the guests in their town.”
“Canada is part of a global community that is facing pressures related to migration and asylum seekers,” Goodale said.
“We will continue to work together closely to respond to these pressures in accordance with the law and in keeping with our values as an open and welcoming nation.”
Coun. Bernadette Clement said the meeting between Goodale and municipal and provincial officials lasted about an hour.
Earlier this week, local politicians said they were concerned about a lack of information from the federal government about a plan to house hundreds of border crossers in a tent city here while their asylum claims are processed.
Goodale promised the government would establish a point of contact for the municipality to keep local residents informed, Clement said.
She said the minister’s answers left local leaders comfortable with what is happening.
“He didn’t rush,” she said of Goodale. “He took questions. He made us feel more comfortable about the process and the fact co-ordination is going to continue to take place.”
The local politicians wanted know which government department was in charge of the operation and while Goodale didn’t have a firm answer, Clement said she “got the sense” that it would be Public Safety.
In his statement, Goodale said the government operations centre in his department “has been activated” to ensure a co-ordinated response to the influx of asylum seekers from the host of government agencies that are involved, including the Canada Border Services Agency, the Immigration department, the RCMP and the Canadian Armed Forces.