Since February 2017, more than 37,000 people have walked across Canada’s southern border with the U.S., the vast majority from New York State to Quebec between official points of entry.
There are no official statistics, but Toronto has received thousands of the new arrivals, creating additional pressures on an already stretched city shelter system. It’s also touched off a conflict between the local, provincial and federal government over who will pay expenses for housing and other services.
A combination of push and pull factors have drawn asylum seekers to Canada.
“The first group to arrive was primarily Haitians,” said Mario Calla, executive direct of COSTI Immigrant Services in Toronto. Haitians speak Creole French, “so Quebec was a better fit for them … but then people from various other countries started to arrive and they made their way to Toronto,” he said.
An asylum-seeker who asked to be called Louis to protect his identity ran his own advertising agency in Nigeria before he and his family came to the United States earlier this year on temporary visas. Louis planned to apply for asylum in the U.S. based on religious persecution.