The Quebec government is demanding the federal government reimburse the province for money it has spent on providing social services to asylum seekers since 2021.

The Quebec government is asking Ottawa for $1 billion. 

Quebec’s Immigration Minister Christine Fréchette called the situation “completely unreasonable.”

“Our capacity to provide services to asylum seekers has limits,” said Fréchette during the press conference.

The provincial government said it spent $576.9 million last year on social services to support migrants and a combined $470 million between 2021 and 2022.

The province has been receiving the lion’s share of asylum seekers over the past several years, taking in 55% of the total migrants living in Canada. 

Quebec officials are also asking the Trudeau government to distribute migrants more equitably throughout the country, as the province currently hosts 160,651 of the 289,047 in the country. 

In contrast, Fréchette said only 380 asylum seekers were taken in by Atlantic Canada last year, whereas 65,570 were received in Quebec.  

The provincial government is also requesting that Ottawa clamp down on the influx of asylum seekers and tighten Canada’s current visa policies. 

One of the most popular illegal border crossings for people planning to claim asylum in Canada is Roxham Rd., which connects New York to Quebec. There has also been an influx in people landing at Montreal airport and claiming asylum upon arrival.

Additionally, it would like to see the federal government close any loopholes which allow for criminals to exploit the immigration system and reimburse the province for their expenses from 2021 to 2023. 

Social Solidarity Minister Jean-François Roberge said Ottawa’s “passive attitude” towards asylum seekers entering Quebec “must absolutely end.”

Ottawa has not yet agreed with Quebec’s demands, however the federal government did transfer the province $100 million several weeks ago to help fund a housing program for migrants. 

However, Fréchette called the transfer “clearly insufficient.”

The Quebec government said that even if it was reimbursed for the money spent, the problem would still persist because the province’s social services are reaching a “breaking point” in sectors like healthcare and education. 

“We are approaching a point where we will not be able to serve people who are already on the Quebec territory,” said Education Minister Bernard Drainville. “What Quebec has done to educate these asylum-seeking children in recent years is exceptional, but now, it can’t continue like this.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded to Quebec demand by saying his government recognized and appreciated how generous the province had been in accepting migrants.

“The federal government was there with hundreds of thousands of dollars, and we will continue to work hand in hand with Quebec to ensure that we can move forward in the right way,” Trudeau said at a news conference in Vancouver, according to CBC News

“The important thing, obviously, is to reassure everyone from one end of this country to the other that we have a functional, rigorous immigration system where the rules are being followed.”