An asylum seeker in Peel Region died while sleeping outside in Brampton, Ontario this week, prompting Mayor Patrick Brown to demand more aid from the federal government.
The man was in his 40’s and was found in a tent on Dundas St. East with no vital signs on Wednesday morning, according to Peel Regional Police.
The coroner deemed that his death was not suspicious, however a post-mortem will be conducted to determine the exact cause.
On Thursday, Brown called for urgent funding from the federal government to prevent future deaths from asylum seekers as winter looms ahead, during a press conference in Brampton.
Peel Region estimates that 68% of shelter residents are asylum seekers, or close to 1,200 people, according to CBC News.
“When I got the news of a fatality yesterday, my heart broke,” said Brown. “We’ve just heard excuses from other levels of government that help is on its way. It’s going to come, but it hasn’t yet.”
“We’re about to get into cold weather, and when you have up to 150 people sleeping outdoors, there will be more fatalities. And that blood is on our hands if we don’t step up and help,” he continued.
Brown was accompanied by several other community leaders, who said that the Peel Region shelter system was far beyond its capacity, housing almost 1,500 with resources only designed to house 500.
Brown said that every night in Brampton, as many as 150 asylum seekers sleep outside and without additional help from Ottawa, there will be a “pending humanitarian disaster.”
“This cannot wait another month. This cannot wait weeks. My worry is that next week, if we don’t have help immediately, we’re going to see fatalities in our region,” said Brown.
Officials in Peel Region have had several meetings with Marc Miller, Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship, however little has come from those discussions, according to Brown.
Next Thursday, Brown plans to present an emergency report to Peel Region Council that will outline what past efforts have worked and to seek approval to implement new solutions immediately.
“We are actively collaborating with all levels of government, community partners, and neighbouring municipalities to secure the essential funding needed for more beds and support services,” said Brown in a written statement.
A volunteer with Toronto’s Dominion Church International, Senior Pastor Eddie Jjumba, confirmed that the man who died was from Nigeria.
“It’s a sad day. It’s a gloomy day and it’s a day that we had hoped would never come,” said Jjumba.
“This is what happens when you delay an essential service. Doesn’t matter the time you bring it, it could be too late. When you delay an essential service, people can die. So yes, people will continue to die.”
Jjumba called for a federal reception centre that could welcome asylum seekers in the Greater Toronto Area.
“I’m not picturing a big luxurious space. I’m picturing a space that is safe enough to keep somebody warm, some food as they process their immigration process,” he said.
“Everybody has been saying that, ‘Guys, if you don’t really change what you’re doing, somebody might die.’ And they say that a death of one man is a death too many. I would even specifically say, a death of one Black man is a death too many.”
Calls for federal aid to provide housing for asylum seekers first began in May 2023 and in June, Brampton began referring asylum seekers to federal programs after its shelter capacity reached overcapacity.
Due to a lack of federal funding, many asylum seekers were left to sleep on sidewalks or near homeless shelters in downtown Toronto.
Several churches decided to come forward to provide shelter for those left outside.