Trudeau wants to stick to Jan. 1 deadline to admit Syrian refugees
Published Tuesday, November 17, 2015 12:11PM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, November 17, 2015 9:15PM EST
Justin Trudeau is sticking to his agenda on resettling Syrian 25,000 refugees by year’s end.
Tuesday morning on board a flight to Manila, Trudeau said his government is determined to bring in the refugees despite calls to delay the process.
“We're working very, very hard to bring in 25,000 refugees in a very short time frame responsibly, effectively and with security,” said Trudeau.
On Monday, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall asked Trudeau to abandon his deadline because of the risk of having terrorists enter Canada under the guise of being refugees.
But on Tuesday, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said Canada should stick to its promise to rescue people fleeing a war. Quebec's share of that 25,000 would be about 5700 refugees. On Monday, Quebec Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil questioned how they would properly process all those people by 2016.
“Frankly I think it's impossible,” she said.
There are 13 cities and towns in Quebec that will take in the Syrians, with Montreal and Quebec leading the charge.
A petition is asking the government to suspend its Syrian refugee plan so it doesn't compromise on security for rapidity.
That kind of demand would only further penalize those who've already suffered so much, said Faisal Alazem of the Canadian Council of Syria.
“There is a lot of frustration because these people are fleeing that sort of terrorism that we've seen in Paris for one day. Well these people have been living it for the last four years and a half,” he said.
Alazem says connecting terrorism and refugees is unfair and the fire at a Peterborough mosque only serves ISIS.
“That's the sort of clash of civilizations that they are looking for and they constantly promote,” he said.
Islamic State has threatened to send terrorists to the west by having them pretend to be refugees. There is evidence at least three of the Paris attackers were using forged passports, but no sign they actually entered Europe through refugee checkpoints.
Odds low a terrorist will sneak in
Former CSIS agent Michel Juneau-Katsuya said the odds of a terrorist sneaking in among refugees are extremely low.
He pointed out that refugees coming to Canada will undergo three separate screening processes, starting with being selected by the U.N., then being interviewed before they ever come to Canada.
"The third level, where Canadian Intelligence Services will review all the names and compare them with our database," said Juneau-Katsuya.
He added that Canada is giving priority to accepting families, not single people.
"It is very unlikely that we will have someone that will infiltrate the refugees like this."
Advocates for refugees, such as Faisal Alazem of The Canadian Council of Syria, found it repugnant that people are treating refugees as criminals.
"These people are fleeing that sort of terrorism we've seen in Paris for one day, well they've been living it in Syria for the last four-years-and-a-half," said Alazem.
"Suddenly putting the tag of criminality and terrorism on the most vulnerable of vulnerable that require Canadian protection, comes [across] as very un-Canadian and very unfair," said Alazem.
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre is among those calling for a slowdown on admitting refugees in order to ensure they are legitimate.
"Those people are suffering from those terrorists. They're part of it, they are the collateral damage of what you're living out there and it's important to talk about it. Now if we need to take more time to explain, this doesn't mean that during that time you cannot proceed," said Coderre.
Coderre is meeting with the Red Cross and other stakeholders in Montreal's refugee plan on Thursday, adding that while he remains focused on the goal, it may take slightly longer than the federal Liberals would like.
“Do we have to do everything to January 1st? I'm not sure,” he said. “What we need to make sure is that we cover all the angles to receive them adequately. That's the issue here.”
Opposition leader Luc Ferrandez of Projet Montreal quickly pounced on the mayor’s hesitation.
“He will be sleeping in a warm house during winter. If the question is why should we rush? The answer is winter.”
Quebec's Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil said she did not think it was possible for Canada to admit 25,000 refugees by year's end.
On Monday Weil explained there were 13 cities in Quebec that had the capabilities to accept refugees and integrate them into Quebec society.
The provincial government held an emergency debate Tuesday afternoon on the Syrian refugee crisis.
“We expect the government to give us the plan and also the resources as to do it,” said Couillard.
Parti Quebecois leader Pierre Karl Peladeau said the government must answer the questions of Quebecers about the plan.
“What we're seeing right now is that we're working in right now is more improvisation. What Quebecers want are answers,” he said.
Couillard maintains it is possible to run medical and security checks without shutting out refugees.
“Yes, there is a degree of urgency because these refugees who are in victims and they are in camps as we speak, and winter is coming and can be very cold,” he said.
The premier said he's in talks with Ottawa and is expecting more details in the coming days.