Cornwall mayor accepts federal plan to resettle migrants in his city

The mayor of Cornwall, Ont., says he has no problem with hundreds of asylum seekers temporarily settling in the eastern Ontario city, and that the centre chosen to house them is perfectly capable of doing so.

Hundreds of asylum seekers to arrive in Ontario city near Quebec border

A man stands outside the Nav Centre in Cornwall, Ont. On Aug. 16, 2017, the federal government announced that the centre would be housing hundreds of asylum seekers in an attempt to reduce the burden on the province of Quebec. (CBC)

The mayor of Cornwall, Ont., says he has no problems with hundreds of asylum seekers temporarily settling in the eastern Ontario city, and that the centre chosen to house them is perfectly capable of doing so.

The Nav Centre in the city's east end has been chosen as a temporary intake centre as a growing number of migrants, mostly Haitians living in the U.S., crossing the border into Quebec.

"The facility is capable of doing it and providing that service," Mayor Leslie O'Shaughnessy told CBC Radio's All In a Day Thursday after the decision was made public.

"Personally, I have nothing against what they're doing — nor should I have. It's private business, really."

3,800 asylum seekers since Aug. 1

Located about 40 kilometres from the Quebec border, the Nav Centre is operated by Nav Canada, a private non-profit corporation that provides air traffic control, flight information and other air navigation services in Canada

According to its website, the centre has 560 rooms.

Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau and Quebec Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil announced Thursday that Cornwall would host the migrants as one of a number of new housing and security measures designed to aleviate the stress on the Quebec economy.

As of Wednesday, 3,307 asylum seekers were in temporary residences across Quebec, Weil said. She said that the use of the Cornwall facility would ease the burden on Quebec, allowing the province to deploy its resources towards finding permanent housing for migrants.

Nav Canada spokesman Ron Singer said 100 asylum seekers arrived earlier today, and more are expected to arrive this evening.

Singer said he expected there would be roughly 240 people housed in Cornwall by the end of Friday.  

Kashechewan flood victims stayed there

O'Shaughnessy said that the discussions to use the NAV Centre began roughly a week ago, and that his office was not part of them.

The centre has previously served as a temporary housing facility, providing refuge in the past for residents fleeing floods in the northern Ontario community of Kashechewan.

Cornwall Mayor Leslie O'Shaughnessy said the Nav Centre is perfectly capable of housing hundreds of asylum seekers. (City of Cornwall)

O'Shaughnessy said he had been told about 400 to 500 migrants would likely be staying at the centre, and that preparations were in place for a possible "tent city" on the property.

He said he didn't foresee the asylum seekers' arrival having any major impact on the city of 50,000.

"If any city resources are required, we would expect that the cost of those services would be recuperated from the federal government," O'Shaughnessy said.