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Quebec’s social safety net will collapse if hyper-immigration levels aren’t restrained, Premier Francois Legault warns.

Legault said his province can no longer keep up with its social services as a result of the “explosion” of immigration it’s been faced with over the past several years.

While being interviewed on a 98.5 FM radio show, Legault said that Quebec had become strained by the number of migrants it has had to take in and that Montrealers were beginning to feel less safe as a rippling effect of the province’s mass influx of people. 

Polls indicating that Montrealers were feeling less safe were partly in response to a supervised injection site operating near a local elementary school. 

Legault responded by saying that people would be unhappy with the location of a supervised injection centre no matter where it was operating but that, “in the end, the problem is that there is an explosion in the number of homeless, of people with mental health problems.” 

Many asylum seekers who come to Canada often wind up staying in homeless shelters because they have nowhere else to go, they account for about 30% of the occupancy at shelters in Toronto. 

He then added, “and you have to make a certain connection with the explosion in the number of asylum seekers who come here because they want to improve their quality of life.”

Quebec takes the lion’s share of total migrants who come to Canada, with the province receiving 65,000 of the 144,000 would-be refugees who entered Canada last year.

“It’s not those people who are the problem, but when we look at temporary immigration, we are at 560,000. That’s not the fault of the immigrants, that’s the fault of the federal government and places huge pressure on our mental health services, homelessness (services), social assistance, education — everything.”

The premier stressed the point that the current figure of temporary immigrants Canada was accepting was the equivalent of Quebec’s capital city. 

“560,000 people is the equivalent of (the population) of Quebec City … these people need care — health, mental health … there are … a lot of children who need teachers. It leads to a crisis in housing — 560,000 people is the equivalent of 200,000 housing units,” he said.

Another grievance of Legault’s was the fact that “about one-third” of the 560,000 temporary immigrants who are residing in Montreal “don’t speak French,” which the premier argued was “accelerating the decline of French. So we absolutely have to convince the federal government to act quickly.”

Legault threatened to hold a “referendum” on immigration if the federal government did not take steps to reduce the number of temporary immigrants entering the province last month. 

The province also demanded that the Trudeau government reimburse Quebec $1 billion in costs spent on social services for migrants.

The premier said he intends to address this issue of Quebec’s jurisdiction regarding immigration with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this month.

“The federal (government) has got to stop this explosion in the number of temporary immigrants,” said Legault. “It isn’t a question of our not being welcoming. It’s not a question of our blaming (immigrants). It’s just that the number has got to the level where we’re no longer able keep up … At the moment there is no housing, no capacity in health and education to serve all of those people.”

When asked how many immigrants would be acceptable for the province, Legault responded by saying “a significant reduction” would be needed for services to be re-established to function properly.