TORONTO — Ontario needs more timely information from the federal government on the status of a refugee’s status in order to halt unnecessary welfare payments, a provincial ministry spokesperson says.
“They are the only holders of this information and they control the process by which decisions on a claimant’s status are made,” Charlotte Wilkinson, a spokeswoman for the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services, said Friday.
“Current work has demonstrated that CIC (Citizenship and Immigration Canada) does not always provide information to provinces when a refugee claimant’s status has changed. We need the federal government to keep us informed of the status of a refugee claim in order to take appropriate action.”
As QMI Agency parliamentary reporter Daniel Proussalidis revealed, taxpayers spend hundreds of millions of dollars on failed or abandoned refugee claims from Hungarian Roma.
As well as the cost of processing the claims, taxpayers pick up social assistance and health care coverage.
A report found some Roma refugee claimants received welfare cheques for up to seven months after they were deported or left the country voluntarily.
There was no immediate provincial tally of the damage, but many of these failed claimants who continued to receive funds were based in deficit-plagued Ontario - notably around Toronto and Hamilton.
Refugees receive welfare in Ontario until the province is notified by the federal government that a claim has been denied, abandoned or withdrawn.
“When a refugee claimant applies for social assistance, the criteria is the same for any other applicant,” Wilkinson said. “Refugees are only eligible for social assistance if they can demonstrate that they are in financial need and that they’re legally allowed to be in Canada.”
Ontario Works, through its municipal partners, verifies their legal status and looks at their personal and financial circumstances, she said.
Community and Social Services Minister John Milloy has discussed this situation with federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, and they’re working on improving communication between the two levels of government, she said.
“It’s really important the federal government keep the provinces and the ministry informed of the status of the claim in order that we can take appropriate action,” Wilkinson said. “When we’re notified then the social systems payments can be immediately discontinued.”