The Quebec Ministry of Employment and Social Solidarity received more applications for financial assistance as a last resort at the beginning of 2024 than in the same period last year. An increase of 30.5%, mainly due to the arrival of asylum seekers.
The trend observed last year, a record increase in the number of welfare recipients, appears to be continuing.
Preliminary data for the first six working days of 2024 shows an increase of 30.5% compared to the same period in 2023, writes the Ministry of Employment and Social Solidarity (MESS), which receives around 700 applications for financial support as a last resort every day receives.
Although this increase is generalized to the entire clientele, it is said to be primarily due to the increase in asylum seekers.
The MESS has so far observed a 26.8% increase in applications for asylum seekers alone.
Such waves have happened in the past, says Catherine Tragnée, community organizer with the Common Front of People on Social Assistance in Quebec.
From March 22 to November 21, 2023, the MESS actually identified 80,151 applications for financial assistance of last resort, compared to 72,221 during the same period in 2022. This increase in the number of households receiving social assistance is the highest, at about 11% increase ever recorded in 25 years.
The monthly average of asylum seekers, in turn, has more than doubled from year to year, rising from 19,455 adults in 2022 to just over 40,000 in 2023.
The phenomenon was previously linked to the large number of junctions on Roxham Road, but the closure did not have the desired effect.
It gives us the impression [que la tendance se poursuit], but these are not necessarily people who receive social assistance in the medium or long term, continues Catherine Tragnée. Your goal is to contribute to the host community.
In fact, many asylum seekers rely on welfare to support themselves while the federal government grants them work permits, a process that can take months.
Quebec calls Ottawa again
Although it is still too early to identify a real trend at the beginning of the year, the minister responsible for social solidarity and community action, for his part, is calling on the federal government to curb the influx of asylum seekers.
Our absorption capacity has now been reached, writes Chantal Rouleau in a statement. Our community organizations are under great pressure due to the increasing number of asylum seekers in Quebec.
The strong influx of asylum seekers since 2022 has led to a significant increase in the number of social assistance recipients.
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Minister Chantal Rouleau is asking Ottawa to “continue to support Quebec in its efforts.”
Photo: Radio-Canada / Sylvain Roy Roussel
In a letter sent to Justin Trudeau on Wednesday, François Legault calls on Ottawa to tighten guidelines for issuing Canadian visas, distribute asylum seekers fairly among all provinces and for Quebec to pay the administrative amounts incurred in 2021 and 2022, i.e. $470 million. to be reimbursed.
Longer processing times for social assistance?
This sharp increase in demand is once again raising fears of a traffic jam.
Deadlines are not always met, claims Catherine Tragnée of the People's Common Front for Social Welfare in Quebec.
There are other people applying who would be like, let's say, “normal” applicants who might not be able to pay their rent or who would be impacted because their application wasn't processed in a timely manner, she says.
Normally, in 85% of cases, the MESS provides a deadline of five working days to decide on a request for financial assistance as a last resort.
Currently the network results are above target […] with a delay of five working days in 87% of cases, the ministry assures.
However, it is possible that in certain cases the usual deadline for submitting the decision will be extended, it is said.