While President Donald Trump’s administration announced severe cuts to legal immigration, which were voraciously defended by senior policy advisor Stephen Miller, hundreds of asylum seekers were relocating from the United States to Canada. According to the CBC, around 1,174 refugees crossed the Canadian-American border into Quebec alone during the month of July. (Around 180 asylum seekers were assisted on year prior.) Many of them are now being sent to Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, parts of which have been converted into a temporary shelter.
“We’ve never seen this before,” said Regional Program for the Settlement and Integration of Asylum Seekers (PRAIDA) spokesperson Francine Dupuis. “It’s really quite a bit more intense than what we’re used to.” The organization typically collaborates with the Montreal YMCA when establishing temporary shelters for asylum seekers in or near the city, but July’s massive influx of refugees from the United States required the assistance of larger player and their spaces. When PRAIDA’s request to Olympic Park went through last Friday, however, the response was swift: “OK, how much space do we need?”
Many of the asylum seekers are Haitian and have left their prior refuge in the U.S. due to the Trump administration’s initial threats to discontinue their temporary legal protections. Established for the nearly 59,000 refugees who fled their country’s 2010 earthquake, President Barack Obama’s protections for Haitian asylum seekers were one of many immigration-related topics Trump and his advisor balked at. Following public and congressional pressure, however, Trump extending the protections in May. Despite this, many are too scared to remain in the U.S. and have since fled to Canada.
“We didn’t know what was going to happen,” explained a woman who crossed the border at Quebec’s Roxham Road entry point. “So we checked online and we saw that Canada was going to welcome Haitians, and that’s why we come here.” Meanwhile, a man identifying himself as Haitian told reporters, “It feels really good to be in Canada because it’s so calm.”