Montreal

Couillard, Wynne press feds to do more on Syrian refugee crisis

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne came together on Friday to urge Ottawa to speed up its process to welcome more refugees to Canada.

Federal government needs to step up to the challenge, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne says

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne speaks at a news conference while Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, right, looks on, Friday, Sept. 11, 2015 at the beginning of a joint cabinet meeting between Ontario and Quebec in Quebec City. (Jacques Boissinot/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne came together on Friday to urge Ottawa to speed up its process to welcome more refugees to Canada.

"I will continue to ask the federal government to streamline their processes so more refugees can come to the country and can come to Ontario," Wynne told reporters ahead of a meeting between her cabinet and Couillard's cabinet.

"I think there should be...a quicker process and I think the federal government needs to step up to that responsibility."

Wynne also said she will make a funding announcement on Saturday related to the crisis.

Last week, Quebec Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil announced that her province would accept triple the number of Syrian refugees it anticipated taking this year, as a way to help with the refugee crisis.

Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war, millions of Syrians have been displaced. Each day, boatloads of people seeking asylum in Europe arrive on the shores of Greece, Italy and other Mediterranean nations.

The Ontario and Quebec premiers said they want the federal government's co-operation to allow the provinces to expedite sponsorships of Syrian refugees.

Quebec has unique discretionary powers in matters of immigration, unlike other provinces.

Even so, the federal government is reserving its right to accept or deny refugee applications.

Both Wynne and Couillard said it is possible to welcome more refugees and at the same time guarantee the security of Canadians.

"The two are not mutually exclusive,'' she said. "Having the right security measures in place, having the right documentation and the need for documentation, all of that is very, very necessary. At the same time, I think there is more we can do as a nation to expedite the process."

The two leaders echoed their earlier thoughts when they held a news conference after the meeting.

"A country as rich as ours must do more,'' Couillard said. "And we have the means to do more."

Senate plans criticized

Wynne and Couillard were also critical of the NDP and Conservative plans to deal with the Senate.

The Ontario premier said NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair's proposal to abolish the Senate isn't realistic. 

Wynne, who is actively campaigning for Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, said Mulcair's proposition couldn't move forward without the support of provinces or without having a national discussion.

"There would have to be a process, there would have to be a national discussion," she said.

Couillard said abolishing the Senate would not be in Quebec's interests and he repeated the upper chamber is a fundamental element of the Canadian federation that can't be changed without a constitutional discussion.

The Quebec premier also criticized the moratorium on nominating senators proposed by Conservative Leader Stephen Harper in July.

With files from the Canadian Press

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