Montreal

Montreal food banks calling for donations amid rise in asylum seekers

The rise in the number of asylum seekers in Quebec has added an extra challenge to the slow summer season for many Montreal food banks.

Slow summer season along with jump in refugee claimants presents unique challenge for organizations

West Island Mission Coordinator Wendy Gariepy (left) and volunteer June Barry are doing their best to distribute enough food for all the families. (Navneet Pall/CBC)

The rise in the number of asylum seekers in Quebec has added an extra challenge to the slow summer season for many Montreal food banks. 

Susan Munro, outreach co-ordinator at the Depot Community Food Centre in NDG, said the number of refugee claimants they see has jumped from 15 families in the first half of 2017 to 221 families in the first six months of this year.

"We're trying to be proactive," she said. "Even just in terms of our physical space and how we accommodate these people."

Munro said the organization recently held a workshop for job-seeking for newcomers and is considering ramping up other services, such as workshops about tenants' rights.

More than 9,000 refugee claimants have crossed into Canada at illegal crossings so far this year, with 90 per cent of them arriving in Quebec.

The warehouse at On Rock is looking pretty empty. Usually there are about 15 to 20 palettes on the floor at this time of year. (Navneet Pall/CBC)

Kim Reid, the founder of On Rock, a community organization in Pierrefonds, says meeting the demand has been challenging, especially during the summer, when donations tend to slow. 

The organization tries to do what it can, he says, providing families with food in an "emergency box."

"But there's no sustained support," Reid said. "We just don't have enough."

Many families are on a waiting list to get food, and with more asylum seekers expected to come into Canada this summer, Reid says he's concerned.

"They get here, and a family of four gets about $1,000 a month, and they're arriving with nothing," Reid said, who urged Montrealers to donate.

With files from CBC's Laura Marchand, Navneet Pall

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