OTTAWA — The federal government is planning to build temporary housing for up to 520 people at a Quebec border crossing that has been the scene of an influx of asylum seekers.
Public Works and the Canada Border Services Agency say in a notice that the housing units are for Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle — the municipality where the majority of RCMP interceptions of irregular migrants in Quebec take place.
The Opposition says the Liberal government is effectively setting up a refugee camp at the Canada-U.S. border by building the housing.
“I’m not sure any Canadian would think that this is an acceptable response,” Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel said Friday.
Rempel said there is a frustrating lack of information flowing from the government about the makeup and needs of asylum seekers.
“How can I say how much money they should be needing when we don’t even know what their needs are? And that is the result of having no plan for immigration. It’s bananas,” she said.
The majority of irregular crossings currently take place in Quebec.
The housing notice calls for “heated, ventilated and illuminated canvas shelters” for three-season use that must include areas for sleeping, security, reception and warehousing. The government is also looking for other units to serve as quarantine space, toilets and showers as well as systems for drinking water and drainage.
Tens of tents were set up at the Lacolle crossing in August of last year, many of which were dismantled when numbers of asylum seekers slowed.
About 2,500 asylum seekers crossed into Canada from the U.S. in April, Mike MacDonald, a senior Immigration Department official, told the House of Commons immigration committee on Thursday.
MacDonald said the figure was just an estimate and that the exact number for April would be known “in the fullness of time.”
Rempel said it wasn’t good enough that federal officials came to testify without having an exact number.
“That’s not fair,” she said. ”This is of immediate concern.”
On Friday, the Trump administration cancelled temporary protected status for Hondurans in the U.S., similar to what it did to Haitians and El Salvadorans, which triggered last year’s influx of border crossers.