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Watchdog to probe Toronto policy to direct shelter-seeking refugee claimants to feds

Toronto’s ombudsman is launching an investigation into the city’s decision to deny refugee claimants space in city shelters and direct them to federal programs. 

Ombudsman Kwame Addo says the investigation will determine whether the city met its obligations to treat the claimants and asylum seekers looking for a shelter bed with fairness, dignity, respect and care. 

City officials announced in May that refugee claimants would be directed away from at-capacity shelters to federal programs because Toronto had not been provided with the funding it needed to deal with unprecedented demand.

The move was quickly met with pushback from advocates, who argued it undermined Toronto’s own sanctuary city policy and resulted in dozens of migrants sleeping on sidewalks outside a downtown referral centre. 

A spokesperson for Mayor Olivia Chow, who took office in July, says she’s worked with staff in recent weeks to ensure asylum seekers are offered a space in both the refugee-specific shelter stream and the wider system. 

It’s the first investigation to come out of the Ombudsman’s newly created housing unit tasked with keeping a watch on the city’s planning and delivery of housing programs.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 21, 2023. 

The Canadian Press

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