Montreal’s Olympic Stadium Transforms Into A Welcome Center For Asylum Seekers

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If you think that the Trump administration has created a less than welcome atmosphere for numerous groups of people living in the United States, you're not alone. In recent months, so many people have left the country and headed north to Canada that Montreal's Olympic stadium was turned into a welcome center for those fleeing what was turning into an increasingly worrying situation. The asylum seekers, many of whom are Haitian, have been arriving in unprecedented numbers to Quebec, and the province has now had to take extraordinary measures in order to accommodate them.

The Haitians, who had originally arrived in the United States and had been given "temporary protected status" after the 2010 earthquake in the island nation, were suddenly in a much more precarious position under the Trump administration. The administration released a statement in May saying that they could stay in the United States for another six months, but that they should begin preparing for departure prior to that. That, combined with the repeated attempts at instituting a travel ban, has sent over 4,300 people over the Canadian border, with 3,350 of them crossing directly into Quebec. The CBC reported that over 1,000 people made the journey in July 2017, which represents a marked increase from anything that it had ever seen previously.

Instead of trying to change their policies about asylum seekers, though, Quebec has simply adapted to the new situation. PRAIDA, the provincial organization that usually works with asylum seekers, normally houses them at Montreal's YMCA, but the demand for space has become to great — and so they've turned to additional venues. The Olympic Stadium, which the CBC says has been out of regular use since the departure of the Montreal Expos in 2004, can currently host another 450 people. The cots were set up on short notice in the concessions hallway, and the asylum speakers will be able to stay for several months, or until the stadium's event schedule gets in the way. While the Olympic Stadium will not be the only place to house people coming to Canada looking for safety, it's certainly the most high profile one.

Canada and its prime minister Justin Trudeau have set themselves up as a foil to the Trump administration particularly when it concerns refuge policy, beginning with the Trump's first attempt at a travel ban that targeted majority Muslim nations. Trudeau responded by saying “Canadians welcome you, regardless of your faith,” and the country has made an effort to be very open to people seeking sanctuary within its borders. Although those arriving in Quebec at the moment have not been technically classified as refugees, the province and the city of Montreal have so far been displaying the same attitude towards them. The mayor of Montreal pledged his full support, and the city's willingness to host people in the stadium is only a small part of that. This is good news for anyone hoping to cross that northern border into Canada — and there are surely many of those people.