Liberals sticking to plan for 25,000 refugees
Josh Dehaas, CTVNews.ca
Published Friday, November 20, 2015 2:38PM EST
Last Updated Friday, November 20, 2015 8:50PM EST
The ministers charged with implementing the government’s promise to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada say the plan is going ahead, but they won’t give full details until next Tuesday – just one week before the first plane loads are expected to arrive.
“We are determined to bring refugees here quickly but we are also determined to do it right in terms of security and in terms of health,” Minister of Immigration and Refugees John McCallum told reporters in Ottawa Friday.
“This is the right thing to do,” he added. “It is the Canadian way.”
When asked whether the Jan. 1 deadline will be met, Minister McCallum said, “Certainly the commitment remains 25,000 and the cost and other details will be revealed on Tuesday.”
McCallum also appealed to Canadians to “come forward to help.”
“I call upon Canadians, if they have access to free or cheap but decent lodging, help us out, we want to hear from you,” he said.
Health Minister Jane Philpott, meanwhile, said they would not comment on details in a “leaked document” outlining the plan, calling it “outdated.”
“You can imagine the discussions have been an iterative process,” she said. “We have worked … to make sure we come up with the very best plan.”
Minister Philpott would not say which document was “outdated.”
CTV News published details from a document dated Nov. 15 and entitled “Operation Syrian Refugees” that suggested as many as 900 Syrian refugees could land each day in Toronto and Montreal, starting as early as Dec. 1.
The document suggested a majority of the Syrians would come from camps in Lebanon, Jordan and perhaps Turkey, and would fly out of Amman, Jordan.
The refugees would be transported to temporary accommodation in places like Cornwall, Ont., and Trois-Rivières, Que., according to the document.
The document suggested the United Nations would identify refugees, and they would be screened on the ground by Canadian officials, including some from the CBSA and CSIS.
The document said there would be further screening in Canada before the granting of permanent residency.
Meanwhile, The Canadian Press reported Thursday that the program will cost as much as $1.2 billion over six years, including $876 million this year alone.
Minister McCallum said at the press conference that he would not comment on the cost, but that details will be shared next week.
Anxiously awaiting details
Chris Friesen, president of the Canadian Immigrant Settlement Sector Alliance, said he is “anxious to find out the details.”
“How many are coming under what time period?” he saidto CTV News. “How many of the 25,000 are government assisted, and how many are privately sponsored?
“How long will they stay at temporary assessment facilities?
“It would really help us to finalize our contingency plan if we had the details,” Friesen said.
Former Veterans Affairs Minister Erin O’Toole, meanwhile, said he is “concerned” because he hasn’t “heard a plan.”
“There’s a sense that the Liberal government is rushing just to meet an election commitment,” said the Conservative MP for Durham.
“I think all Canadians support the fact that we’re bringing refugees,” he added. “But let’s do it in a way that gets it right.”
Security concerns inflated: premiers, Calgary mayor
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne joined fellow politicians Friday, linking national security concerns about Syrian refugees to racism.
Wynne made the comments in Ottawa, where Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said that politicians have a responsibility not to feed racism and xenophobia while debating refugees.
On Thursday, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi told CTV Power Play that, while most people are simply asking him how to help, a small percentage “are saying some hateful stuff.”
"I think that we as Canadians need to stand up and say, 'This kind of conversation, this kind of rhetoric is not acceptable,’” Nenshi said, adding he sees a "direct line" between hateful rhetoric and apparent hate crimes against Muslims.
Nenshi also pointed out that the plotters of last week’s deadly attack on Paris had French and Belgian passports, and suggested it is illogical to think terrorists are going to hide in refugee camps for years, “in the hopes that I might end up somewhere I could eventually do something bad.”
“When people get radicalized, it’s precisely because we’re not integrating them into society,” Nenshi added. “The real danger is not the people who come, but making sure we welcome and integrate them and give them a great chance once they get here.”
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall faced protests this week after he wrote to the prime minister over the weekend, asking Justin Trudeau to “suspend” the refugees plan.
Wall clarified on CTV Power Play Monday that he is only seeking a temporary delay.
"We're saying, let's get it right from a security perspective and a settlement perspective, if that means a few months or even a longer delay, that means then it is worth it," he said.
Polls suggests majority oppose plan
An opinion poll suggests a majority of Canadians oppose the plan to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees by Jan. 1.
Angus Reid Institute found 54 per cent oppose the plan, 42 per cent support it and five per cent remain unsure.
However, the poll found a majority of those opposed (53%) say they are not in favour because, “the timeline is too short to ensure that all the necessary security checks are completed.”
A smaller proportion of those opposed agree Canada should not be “taking in any Syrian refugees” (29%), while a few (10%) say 25,000 is “too many” or that the plan is too expensive (8%).
The online survey was taken on Monday, Nov. 16, among a representative randomized sample of 1,503 Canadian adults.
For comparison purposes, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of +/-2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, according to Angus Reid Institute.
With files from The Canadian Press and CTV’s Katie Simpson