Syrian refugees: Quebec describes federal timeline as 'unrealistic'

Municipal Affairs Minister Pierre Moreau has shot down a federal government timetable that would see 25,000 Syrian refugees arrive in Canada by the end of the year, but the Parti Québécois still wants more assurance that security will be a priority.

Quebec minister won't force municipalities to take Syrian asylum-seekers

Quebec Municipal Affairs Minister Pierre Moreau says the province has no intention of forcing any municipality to welcome the Syrians. (Clément Allard/Canadian Press)


  • PQ calls for balance between compassion and security in emergency debate

Municipal Affairs Minister Pierre Moreau has shot down a federal government timetable that would see 25,000 Syrian refugees arrive in Canada by Dec. 31.

Moreau, speaking to reporters in Quebec City Tuesday, said preparing for the influx requires too much preparation to complete the work by the end of the year.

Syrian refugees, seen here crossing a cornfield on their way to Europe, have become a hot topic of debate at Quebec's National Assembly. (Reuters)
The province plans to send 2,400 requests to sponsor Syrian immigrants to Ottawa for evaluation on Dec. 18.

Medical checks and other verifications will then be conducted by embassies abroad, which will make it logistically impossible for the newcomers to arrive by the end of the year, he noted. 

The province is also still making arrangements with 13 of the province's 1,133 municipalities deemed potentially able to provide the housing, schools and other services the refugees will require. 

Moreau says the province has no intention of forcing any municipality to welcome the Syrians. 

Quebec represents 23 per cent of Canada's total population and has agreed to accept its proportion of the 25,000 immigrants as well as 3,300 more. 

Quebec Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil has said that the government is awaiting details from her federal counterpart, John McCallum, who will outline the plan to bring the promised 25,000 refugees to Canada.

Emergency debate in National Assembly

PQ leader Pierre Karl Péladeau, flanked by PQ MNA Maka Kotto, want clarity on the Syrian refugee file. (Pierre Karl Péladeau/Facebook)
Parti Québécois Leader Pierre Karl Péladeau called for an emergency debate Monday and that request was granted Tuesday afternoon. 
  "We've seen that the government seems unable to answer the questions that Quebecers are asking," Péladeau said.

During the debate, PQ immigration critic Maka Kotto said his party is committed to welcoming refugees, but underscored the need to twin that compassion with respect for security.

"Quebec's response to terrorism must be generosity and sharing, but we have to do things right and ensure the security of Quebecers," he said.

He said the government's plans for welcoming the Syrians was "opaque" and needed to be clarified in order to reassure Quebecers.

"The [lack of transparency] is causing worry and that can lead to mistrust and even to tensions," he said.​

Couillard said his government is making every effort to share the information it receives from the federal government. 

2 categories of refugees

Quebec has committed to accepting just over 5,700 refugees through private and government sponsorships.

The province has received 694 applications to privately sponsor Syrian refugees as of Sept. 30 and is still evaluating another 2,400 demands. If approved, the files will then be sent to the federal government for final approval. 

The second category, state sponsored refugees, involves people from refugee camps overseen by the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees. 

"These are women and children in a really bad state and extremely vulnerable. Canada decides to bring those people over," Weil told CBC Montreal's Daybreak Tuesday.

Weil said she has been in contact with officials in 13 Quebec municipalities to be involved in the nuts and bolts of the settlement, arranging lodging and schooling for the newcomers. 

She said that she has also met plenty of previously-settled Syrian refugees to Quebec and was impressed. 

"The are delighted to be in a paradise where they feel safe," said Weil. "They are trying to avoid the horrific acts like we saw Friday night in Paris."

Applicants carefully scrutinized

  One local immigration advocate told    Daybreak that misgivings about the refugees are unfounded, as the applicants will be carefully scrutinized before arriving. 

"We have a very sophisticated process," said Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council of Refugees. 

"The Canadian Border Security Agency and Canadian Security Intelligence Service have to approve the application. Then the applicants go through the security and health screening stages, so if there are people who need further screening they'll say that they can't come for the time being."

Dench said potential terrorist threats would be more likely to come to Canada another way.


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