Toronto stands by data showing almost 40 per cent of people in shelters are refugee claimants

The city of Toronto is standing by its statistics showing almost 40 per cent of people in shelters are refugee claimants – a number challenged as false by federal Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen in a continuing spat with his provincial counterpart.

Amid growing tension between Ottawa and the provincial government, Mr. Hussen last week accused Ontario Community and Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod, who is responsible for the immigration file, of “fear-mongering” and using the issue of asylum seekers to “demonize people.” He was responding to her criticism of the federal government’s lack of plan for dealing with the influx of people crossing the U.S. border into Canada. In a critical statement, she cited the percentage of refugees occupying shelter spaces in Toronto.

“The status of people seeking access to the shelter system in Toronto is unknown,” Mr. Hussen said during a CBC Power and Politics interview. “Therefore, to put a number on that is simply not factual.”

But an official with Toronto’s shelter services said the number accurately reflects how people staying in shelters describe themselves.

As of Oct. 29, some 2,523 people – or 37.3 per cent of shelter occupants – self-identified as refugees, she said, adding that about 70 per cent were in temporary refugee shelters, and the rest were in the permanent shelter system.

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