Niagara Falls tourist district dealing with influx of thousands of relocated migrants

The mayor of Niagara Falls is calling on the federal government to come up with a plan and provide resources for thousands of migrants staying in the city’s tourist district after entering Canada through the unofficial border crossing at Roxham Road in Quebec.

Jim Diodati told CTV News Toronto the number of migrants coming to Niagara Falls has been steadily increasing to around 3,000 since the summer because Ottawa has been relocating the migrants and booking more motel and hotel rooms.

“It started out as 87 rooms and now we’re shooting for numbers like 2,000 and more rooms, so that puts a significant strain on our systems,” Diodati said Wednesday.

Niagara Falls has a population of just under 100,000. Diodati said the city is willing to do its part and is helping new families with everything from warm clothes to food and learning English, but the influx is causing concern.

“May 24 is when we begin our tourist season and it just continues to escalate from there, so we need to have plan moving forward,” he said.

“We know how many rooms they need today. We don’t know how many rooms they need tomorrow … we don’t know where this is going to end.”

Quebec has been pushing Ottawa to do something about the imbalance of migrants arriving in that province who then go on to await a refugee claim.

Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCCC) reports the RCMP intercepted close to 40,000 asylum seekers in Quebec in 2022, and around 400 from other provinces.

“I know Quebec has hit their maximum now and their saturation point. Ontario is stepping up and the federal government is bringing them here,” he said. “But we need to be apart of the conversation, to be part of the solution.”

CTV News Toronto has reached out to the IRCC asking for details about the number of migrants being relocated to Ontario, the costs, and if there is a plan moving forward, and is awaiting a response.

Diodati said Niagara Falls is still recovering from COVID-19 and having hotel room stock avialable is important, adding in all the city has 16,000 hotel rooms. He said most are staying the downtown tourist hub of the city.

Diodati added, like other cities, Niagara Falls also dealing with the affordability and housing crisis. On top of plan, he says resources are needed to make the migrants stay a success.

IMPACT ON SCHOOLS AND SERVICES

The District School of Niagara tells CTV News Toronto it’s seeing a spike in enrolment since the summer.

“Although welcoming newcomers is a regular practice, a larger group of students – around 300 elementary – have joined schools in the Niagara Falls area,” said spokesperson Carolyn Laconte.

She said schools have done an excellent job supporting students and that additional staff have been brought in to support the increased enrolment and schools have been provided with additional technology to support language.

The Salvation Army is one organization active in Niagara Falls helping the newcomers and is working with community agencies.

“With more individuals and families struggling due to the high cost of inflation and food, we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of people coming to The Salvation Army for help. This includes newcomers to Canada,” said spokesperson Billy Canning.

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