Immigration Minister not sure 25,000 refugees will arrive by year's end
Quebec's minister of immigration promises there will be no compromises to security as the government moves forward on its promise to bring Syrian refugees to Quebec.
Kathleen Weil said Quebec is prepared to accept 6,000 refugees, although she doubts they will all arrive by year's end as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised during the election campaign.
"I'm going to be frank: I don't think it's possible by the end of the year," she said.
Of the 3,600 initially promised, 2,400 will be processed by mid-December, but given the Paris events, she understands Quebecers' concerns about fast-tracking refugees.
Weil said there are 13 cities in Quebec that have the resources to accept refugees and integrating them into life in the province.
Those cities are: Drummondville, Gatineau, Granby, Joliette, Laval, Longueuil, Montreal, Quebec City, Saint Hyacinthe, Saint Jerome, Sherbrooke, Trois Rivieres, and Victoriaville
The immigration minister said the province will do everything it can to ensure the refugees it accepts are legitimate families fleeing the violence in the Middle East, and not ISIS warriors in disguise.
She said Quebec will perform background checks on all applicants, and keep tabs on refugees as they resettle.
"I want to reassure the public, no shortcuts will be taken when it comes to security checks," said Weil. “I think people need to be reassured. I think people need to be reassured that first of all we hear their concerns and that the governments will act responsibly that all of their concerns will be responded to.”
All Syrian refugees destined for Quebec are also being carefully screened by the U.N. and Ottawa.
“They do a criminality check and they do a check for terrorism,” said Weil.
Pointing to Quebec's long history of accepting refugees throughout the 20th century, Weil said the Syrian refugees are no different.
The provincial government said all refugees are given an orientation session to introduce them to life in Quebec, and told how to learn French, how to find work, and get access to education.
Coderre weighs in
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre also lent his voice to the discussion Monday, holding a press conference to weigh in.
He said emotions have grown far too high as people link the events in Paris to Syrian immigration to the province.
Coderre’s counterpart in Quebec City Regis Labeaume issued a cri de coeur Monday, saying Canada should press pause on the fast-tracking of refugees.
Denis Coderre, a former federal immigration minister, said these issues are very difficult, but that the plan should not be abandoned and Canadians should not lose sight of the fact that these refugees are people who are fleeing this same violence.
He said he will listen to Prime Minister Trudeau’s plan.
“I think that the importance is we let him tell his plan, and they are doing their homework. I think it was important for me to talk today to reassure people,” he said. “I think it’s very high in emotion. We need to talk about that, and we need to make sure that we don’t create some links that are not (there).”
Saskatchewan premier expresses doubts
Quebec is not the only province to express doubts about Canada accepting 25,000 refugees in the next six weeks.
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall has written a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau saying refugees must be properly screened to ensure no terrorists are among them.
Wall said he's concerned that fast-tracking refugee claims could severely undermine refugee screening- and that Friday's attacks in Paris are a reminder of what can happen when even a small number of dangerous individuals make their way into a country.
Refugee initiative cannot be date/quota driven. Safety must be priority. Wrote to PM asking him to re-evaluate plan pic.twitter.com/EumdHMefwo
— Brad Wall (@PremierBradWall) November 16, 2015