Some residents uneasy with asylum seekers being housed in Boucherville
City says they took down some offensive online comments following announcement
Close to 200 asylum seekers are being given temporary shelter in a former senior's home, the Havre Providence, in a quiet neighbourhood in Boucherville — a move that is soliciting mixed reaction online and in person.
The centre was opened to help manage the influx of thousands of refugee claimants, many of them Haitian nationals, illegally crossing the U.S.-Canada border.
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A second post on their Facebook page, published Tuesday, added that the cost of setting up the centre was being covered by the province and that "the city was not consulted as to the choice of the site."
City officials later had to take down a series of offensive and even racist Facebook comments aimed at the new arrivals, said Julie Lavigne, director of communications for the city.
"It's really mixed," she said. "It's a minority that doesn't want to help others."
She said there were less than 10 comments that the city decided to hide or delete online, and that most of the reaction has otherwise been positive.
Residents at odds
Linda Gauthier, who's lived across the street from Havre Providence for 11 years, told CBC that the new neighbours don't sit well with her, adding that some are "noisy" and "not respectful."
"I'm worried," she said. "I'm always watching."
Gauthier said that if the centre stays open into next year, she might consider finding a new place to live.
She said she isn't the only person who feels this way, adding that one of her neighbours put up a homemade sign that read "Privé/Private" to keep people from walking on their property.
But other residents like Gilberte Hebert, who lives in an apartment across the street from the residence, disagrees.
"They seek refuge in Canada, and, well, I wish them good luck," she said.
Yvon Dorais added that it is Canada's responsibility to help newcomers. He's optimistic that people who are wary of asylum seekers will have a change of heart.
"Once they know a little bit more, they start to understand," he said.
It's not clear how long the building will serve as a shelter for the asylum seekers.
Situation under control
Marie-Claude Bibeau, federal minister of international development, is assuring the public that the situation at the border is being managed effectively.
"It would be a crisis if it was out of control, but it's not," she told Radio-Canada Wednesday morning.
The Canadian Border Agency said last Friday that as many as 1,200 people were waiting to be processed at that same crossing.
"Everyone is working really hard to collaborate," said Bibeau. "They are working long hours, their work conditions are more difficult than normal and sitll, we are managing the situation."
With files from Radio-Canada's François Messier