Even though the number of asylum-seekers crossing the border into the province continues to drop, Manitobans lead the country in believing Canada can’t handle any more.

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Even though the number of asylum-seekers crossing the border into the province continues to drop, Manitobans lead the country in believing Canada can’t handle any more.

A new poll, taken by the Angus Reid Institute, has found 76 per cent of Manitoba respondents agreed with the statement: "This situation is a crisis — Canada’s ability to handle the situation is at a limit."

The other 24 per cent of Manitobans said the situation was not a crisis and "the situation is being overblown by politicians and the media."

Manitoba’s "crisis" number was tied with Saskatchewan for highest in the provinces, with Alberta not far behind (72 per cent).

The survey finds two-thirds of Canadians (67 per cent) call the current situation a "crisis," while 65 per cent said Canada has received "too many" irregular crossers for the country’s authorities and service providers to handle.

Tom Denton, executive director of Winnipeg’s Hospitality House Refugee Ministry, said he’s disappointed in the poll’s findings about the feelings towards refugees.

"Everybody is talking about this as an economic or political issue, instead of talking about the moral, the faith and the human rights of the issue," Denton said Friday. "They’re forgetting the humanity in all of this."

Denton also noted there continue to be fewer asylum-seekers coming to Manitoba. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said recently only 31 refugee claimants came to the province in June, compared to 35 the month before, and a total of 219 since the beginning of the year.

Across the country, the number of asylum-seekers dropped in June for the sixth consecutive month, with 1,179 arriving in Quebec, the lowest number for a month this year.

Denton said there are 24 million refugees around the world, and Canada is only allowing the sponsorship of 8,500 this year.

"Refugees don’t want to be refugees — there is a real need," he said.

Angus Reid Institute executive director Shachi Kurl pointed out the number of Manitobans who think the situation is a "crisis" tops Quebec’s number of 68 per cent. "Both Manitoba and Quebec have received more people crossing in than others," Kurl said.

"Manitobans have had to grapple with this first-hand in the last 18 months. This is how they perceive the people crossing and how they are absorbed... Some of this is based on perception and some of this is based on reality."

The poll also found 44 per cent of Manitobans polled believe the border-crossers are coming looking for economic opportunities, while eight per cent believe almost all are genuine refugees fleeing persecution.

"Canadians are skeptical whether these people are genuine refugees or not," Kurl said. "We didn’t have push-back when 25,000 Syrians came — there was a feeling these people are fleeing terrible circumstances.

"This is more thinking of them as being economic opportunists than refugees."

The poll also found 48 per cent of Canadians who voted for the Liberals, Tories or NDP in the last federal election believe Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is most trusted to deal with the issue of border security and asylum-seekers, followed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (35 per cent) and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh (16 per cent).

As well, 58 per cent of Canadians say they believe the country has been "too generous" to people crossing irregularly, while most Canadians would rather see border monitoring and security be beefed up (78 per cent) than help asylum-seekers (50 per cent).

The poll was an online survey of a representative randomized sample of 1,500 Canadian adults who are members of the Angus Reid Forum. The institute said, for comparison purposes only, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.


Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

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