Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you for the invitation to appear before you.
My name is Stephan Reichhold. I am the director general of the Table de concertation des organismes au service des personnes réfugiées et immigrantes, which brings together 140 organizations in Quebec that work with refugees, immigrants and undocumented migrants.
I will paint a picture of the situation. Quebec is often mentioned in this committee's discussions, but I get the impression that not everyone knows exactly how it works in Quebec. This province does things very differently than the rest of Canada when it comes to refugee claimants. So I'm going to quickly explain how it works.
According to the system that has been in place since the 1980s, the first responders, after the admissibility process of the Canada Border Services Agency or IRCC, are Quebec's social services. Refugee claimants are therefore referred to the Quebec Ministry of Health and Social Services, which receives them and offers them social services. The ministry is responsible for everything related to temporary accommodation.
The steps taken by refugee claimants are as follows. Whether they entered the country in a regular or irregular way, whether it was through the Roxham Road or directly through Lacolle, it makes absolutely no difference. They spend a few hours completing security and admissibility formalities. The agency then takes them by bus to Montreal and drops them off directly in front of one of the four temporary accommodation centres. One of these centres, the YMCA, has been in existence for 30 years, but the others were set up last summer following the arrival of more refugee claimants.
Often, these claimants and their children stay in the temporary accommodation for two or three weeks, the time it takes to receive their first social assistance cheque, which takes an average of two weeks. Once they have received their social assistance cheque, they are directed to one of the 12 settlement NGOs in the Montreal area. Their mandate is to find housing for the claimants. These organizations are funded to find housing for them, to guide them and to help them in their efforts to settle outside Montreal.
So there is a big turnover. Currently, there are between 800 and 900 people in temporary accommodation centres. Tomorrow, maybe 100 people will leave these centres and 50 more will arrive. This turnover ensures that a presence in temporary accommodation can be maintained in a fairly controlled manner.
The housing situation in Quebec is certainly not comparable to that in Toronto. It seems obvious and easy, but it's still quite complicated. This works relatively well because all stakeholders work closely together: CBSA, IRCC, IRB, Service Canada, the City of Montreal, Red Cross, UNHCR and others.
We meet every six to eight weeks. Together, we take stock of what has been done and what is coming. We get ready and try to address the problems and the missing links in the system. We can say that it is fluid and that it can adapt to a larger volume of refugee claimants.
As Mr. Fortin said, currently between 40 and 50 new people arrive every day, which is still very manageable. If the numbers were double that, it would be quite manageable as well.
I will give you some interesting figures, because there aren't many statistics on who these people are, on their profile, and so on.
Two organizations sent me their statistics, including the Centre d'appui aux communautés immigrantes, or CACI, in Montreal. Last year, CACI provided services to 1,700 refugee claimants, mainly from Haiti, Nigeria, Syria and Congo. The educational profile of these individuals is as follows: 43% have a university degree and 27% have a college diploma. This means that about 70% of these people are highly educated. Of these 1,700 refugee claimants, 40% were receiving social assistance. The others had jobs or other sources of income.
La Maison d'Haïti met with 6,172 refugee claimants and assisted them with housing, work permits, and so on. Of these 6,172 claimants, 2,344 reported that they were employed. We find that in Quebec—and we would like to have more data on this—the majority of refugee claimants who arrived in recent months are employed, which is good news.
I'm not saying that it's easy, but we are seeing a phenomenon that we were not aware of before, namely that many companies in the regions are recruiting refugee claimants who are in Montreal. Representatives of these companies come to agencies for a day, interview refugee claimants and offer them work. We are talking about regions such as the Eastern Townships, Chaudière-Appalaches and Mauricie. At present, hundreds or even thousands of refugee claimants have been recruited by companies that take care of them, find them accommodation and sometimes even bring their families. Since these companies act independently, we are not sure how things work. Again, it would be interesting to document all this.
In addition, a multitude of citizens' initiatives have been launched since last summer. For example, TD Group and Team Spectra, which includes the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal among its achievements, have provided significant amounts of money to, among other things, provide activities for children in temporary accommodation centres. Many citizens participate in these initiatives. I'm not talking about donations.
Of course, resources are a challenge, but as you know, community organizations are very creative. We manage to find resources. Centraide is a major financial player. There is also the private sector and fundraising, among others. In the face of the desire to do things right and to treat people with dignity, negative messages are still the most important obstacle. That is what we fear most. The remarks we've heard, even here around this table—