Jim Watson, Ottawa mayor, calls out new Canadians who don't want more refugees

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson says it's ironic when new Canadians "with heavy accents" don't want more refugees in Canada.

Ottawa mayor to host public forum on Syrian refugee crisis at City Hall this evening

Two men hold signs as hundreds gather for a rally organized by the local Kurdish community to call on the Canadian government to allow more Syrian refugees into the country, in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday, September 6, 2015. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson tackled an underlying note of racism among those who worry refugees coming to Canada could be terrorists, and he says it's ironic when new Canadians "with heavy accents" share that view.

Watson spoke with Robyn Bresnahan, host of CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning, on Thursday about a public forum being held at Ottawa City Hall starting at 5 p.m., where the mayor is set to announce a campaign called "United for Refugees."

The forum will focus on raising the necessary funds for the sponsorship and settlement of people affected by the Syrian crisis, part of a collaboration between the City of Ottawa and United Way Ottawa, plus other organizations.

Watson admitted he has received emails and phone calls from worried residents who say he should "take care of our own" instead of refugees, and he said new immigrants have also expressed that concern.

"I often find it ironic when I hear people with heavy accents, who are obviously new Canadians themselves, saying we don't want to accept more people from offshore," Watson said Thursday.

"There's really quite an underlying tone of racism in that element."

Watson has spoken to Ottawa's Catholic Archbishop Terrence Prendergast and other faith-based group leaders about how refugees can be sponsored.

The mayor also pledged to help sponsor a refugee with a group of people and he said cities should be involved in the process of bringing more refugees to Canada.

"I've received some letters saying you shouldn't be involved in this, this has nothing to do with the city. Well, it's everything to do with the city because the vast majority of refugees are going to come to cities," Watson said.

You can listen to Watson's full interview in the link above.