Montreal

Roxham Road residents financially compensated for asylum seeker 'challenges'

The federal government will be compensating people living on or near Roxham Road with up to $25,000 for putting up with all the traffic associated with the influx of asylum seekers over the last two years.

Residents at Canada's busiest illegal crossing paid up to $25K for putting up with traffic increase

Thousands of asylum seekers have crossed into Quebec on Roxham Road in recent years. (Benjamin Shingler/CBC)

The federal government is compensating people living on or near Roxham Road with up to $25,000 for the traffic associated with the influx of asylum seekers in recent years.

Among those receiving a payment is Susan Heller, who owns a 200-acre farm about a kilometre from the New York border, just west of the Champlain—Saint-Bernard de Lacolle crossing.

A delivery driver recently knocked on her door and handed her a package with a grin from ear to ear, she said, and then he waited for her to open the parcel so he could see the look on her face.

"It was just out of the blue," Heller told CBC News. "On the first page, it said, from the government, 'you are the recipient of $25,000 due to the inconvenience of the traffic and the noise.'"

Heller is part of a group that has been helping asylum seekers — handing out warm clothing on the U.S. side of the border every Sunday because "they're still coming through."

She said they see about a dozen people every Sunday, but it used to be much more than that.

The traffic and noise at Canada's busiest illegal crossing has never really bothered her. Nonetheless, she welcomes the unexpected financial bonus.

"Incredible," she said. "I mean, I've never received that kind of money from anybody."

For Aline Nault, the increase in buses, trucks and cars rumbling by her home over the last year and a half has been a nuisance. 

Nault, who said she's being paid $10,000, estimates the border to be one to two kilometres from her home.

"This doesn't happen often," she told CBC. "It's usually the opposite. It's us that has to pay the government."

'Reasonable compensation'

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said Wednesday the aim is offer "reasonable compensation" to those who have "experienced challenges" due to the activity on Roxham Road.

Those challenges, he added, include the presence of RCMP and Canada Border Services Agency officers.

Blair did not provide the total amount offered to residents.

"We're working carefully with local members of parliament, with that community, with the individual residents," he said.

"We're working with them to make sure that people who've experienced legitimate expenses as a result of the activity taking place there are appropriately compensated."

Last year, the RCMP stopped over 20,000 people attempting to cross into Canada. Of those, 90 per cent were halted along the Quebec border with the U.S.

The government's budget for 2018 included more than $170 million over two years to support the intake of asylum claimants and to help process claims, detentions and removals.

With files from Jay Turnbull

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