Montreal opens Olympic Stadium to house refugees
Authorities opened Montreal Olympic Stadium on Wednesday as a temporary shelter for refugees after a huge influx of undocumented immigrants began entering Quebec by crossing the border from the United States.
"We've never seen this before," Francine Dupuis told Canadian media. Dupuis is the spokesperson for PRAIDA, the provincial organization that aids refugees after their arrival in Quebec.
Many of the refugees are Haitian who fear deportation from America, thanks to U.S. President Donald Trump's threat to revoke their protective status that was granted after a devastating Haitian earthquake in 2010. As many as 58,000 could be deported beginning in January.
There is a sizeable Haitian community in Montreal, and Dupuis said that is one reason for crossing the border into Quebec.
"Obviously, there is a stronger attraction to coming to Quebec for Haitians than in other provinces," she said. "They have the help of their community to get settled."
Dupuis estimated 1,174 refugees had crossed into Quebec in July. The Canadian Border Services Agency said in the first six months of the year 4,345 people sought asylum at border crossing points or entered at random illegal sites. Of those, 3,350 crossed into Quebec.
The numbers stunned Dupuis.
"It's unheard of," she said. "In 30 years, I've never seen this kind of volume or intensity."
Previously, refugees were often sheltered in the Montreal YWCA, but the influx caused officials to open the stadium as a temporary home, with up to 450 cots.
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said the large increase was yet "another consequence" of people fleeing Trump's America due to his immigration crackdowns. The mayor greeted the new refugees in a tweet Wednesday.
"The City of Montreal welcomes the Haitian refugees," he said. "You can count on our full cooperation."
Where previously many of the refugees crossing into Quebec from the U.S. were Muslims fearing Trump's travel bans on Muslim-majority countries, Dupuis said about 90 percent now are from Haiti.