Pro-migrant rally happening at Niagara Falls City Hall on the weekend


Published March 17, 2023 at 3:49 pm

There’s been a lot of stories about the migrant situation in Niagara Falls these days, and reaction to it has been decidedly mixed.

To that end, a pro-immigration group, Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, will be holding a ‘Status For All’ rally at Niagara Falls City Hall on March 19 at 2 pm, calling for equal rights for migrants.

The group believes that anti-immigrant forces are trying to divide the population, blaming them for stretched social services.

When migrants started coming across the border into Canada at the Roxham Road crossing in Quebec, the federal government scrambled to accommodate them.

To that end, the government started renting hotel rooms in Niagara Falls, Windsor and Chatham to the migrants while their situation is evaluated.

While Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati is fine with the federal government setting them up in local hotels and motels, he also noted that initially, only 87 hotel rooms were needed for asylum seekers last summer.

Since that time, he added, it quickly went to 300, then 687, then 2,000 rooms, “and it’s gotten much bigger.”

His concern isn’t about the migrants per se but rather what plans Ottawa has for them. He said the city is being left in the dark, expected to accommodate them all regarding schooling and support services.

“We need to know the plan (from Ottawa),” Diodati said in an interview with Canadian Press. “Don’t just tell us the plan, let’s develop it together.”

As well, as a tourist town, he is concerned about room availability as May is closing in.

However, Syed Hussan, the executive director of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, criticized the suggestion that having migrants take up hotel rooms would hit tourism operations and other businesses hard.

“There’s a lot of hysteria that’s been generated,” he said to CP. “Part of this is the fact that these are poor, racialized Black, brown people who are walking in the downtowns of these tourist centres.”

The influx of migrants is coming in at Quebec’s Roxham Road border crossing about 50 kilometres south of Montreal.

In 2021, 4,246 migrants entered Canada via Roxham Road, with that number jumping to nearly 40,000 last year, the federal government has said.

Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada said the government began transferring asylum claimants to various cities in Ontario in June last year, after Quebec voiced concerns the migrants were placing pressure on publicly funded services and accommodation.

The department said 7,131 people have been transferred to Ontario communities so far – 4,313 to Niagara Falls, 1,396 to Cornwall, 720 to Windsor and 702 to Ottawa.

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