Premier Philippe Couillard to sponsor Syrian refugee family

Premier Philippe Couillard wants Quebecers to open their homes to Syrian refugees, and he's leading by example.

Lac-Saint-Jean residents, including Quebec premier and his wife, want to help family settle in Lac-Saint-Jean

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said Thursday that the province is ready to accept "hundreds, if not thousands" of new refugees fleeing war and terrorism. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

Premier Philippe Couillard wants to open Quebec's doors to Syrian refugees, and he's leading by example.

Couillard, his wife and a group of residents in the Lac-Saint-Jean region are pitching in to sponsor a family from Syria. 

The premier, who represents the riding of Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, said he wants the family to come and settle specifically in his region.

The premier said the idea came to him as he was speaking to his wife about the photo of three-year-old Alan Kurdi, who died along with his mother and five-year-old brother as they tried to reach Europe last week.

"My wife Suzanne and I decided to be part of a sponsorship group," Couillard told the Le Quotidien newspaper. "I have already contacted people, people with big hearts, who decided to make this gesture then with us."

Collective sponsors, like Couillard and his group, are responsible for covering the cost of basic necessities for a year including food, lodging and clothing.

They're also expected to help newcomers learn French, find a job and get their children signed up for school.

Quebec plans to welcome as many as 3,650 refugees by the end of the year, 2,450 more than it had originally planned.

"To be able do that, we need the collaboration of the federal government," Quebec Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil said last week when she announced the increase.

The Harper government has committed to accepting 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next three years.

With files from The Canadian Press