Saskatchewan

'Regina residents will embrace them': Mayor Fougere on Syrian refugees

Regina Mayor Michael Fougere couldn't escape one of the most debated topics across the country today.

'The issue here is timing, not that we have people coming in': Fougere

Regina Mayor Michael Fougere answers question at the Saskatchewan Legislature on Nov. 17. (CBC)

Regina Mayor Michael Fougere couldn't escape one of the most debated topics across the provinces and the country on Tuesday.

Fougere was at the Saskatchewan Legislature that morning when it was announced that BreakOut West would be hosted in the city. But reporters were far more interested in asking the mayor what he thought about Regina receiving an influx of Syrian refugees.

"I've indicated that we welcome refugees and immigrants with open arms. That is an important element of who we are as a city and a province," Fougere said.

In the same building just one day prior, Premier Brad Wall said he wants the federal government to suspend its plan to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by the end of the year. Fougere said he didn't have enough information to comment on whether it should be suspended.

I think Regina residents will embrace them with open arms. I have no question about that.- Regina Mayor Michael  Fougere

"The premier has made his statement. I would only say that I want to make sure the people that come into our country and into our city are duly screened. I think everybody would agree with that."

The mayor said the most important thing is to make sure refugees undergo proper health, safety, and security checks before arriving.

"Nothing I've heard would say otherwise. But the time is compressed so much between now and December 31st — which is like a month and a half — can we actually get that many people into Canada?"

While Fougere said Regina will accommodate the incoming refugees, he did add that such a compressed time period will mean more work for local support groups.

"We will do our share. We will do what we're asked to do because that's who we are as a people," he said.

When asked how many refugees Regina could be able to take in, Fougere said he didn't know the exact number.

"The issue here is timing, not that we have people coming in. The 25,000 is legitimate and I have no issue with that whatsoever."

Fougere was also asked whether he was aware of anti-Muslim or racist comments coming from people in the province.

"I see it, but I discount it. The people who make these comments generally don't have a name attached to what they're saying. They can say whatever they want to say. But I know what people believe in this city ... they are very accommodating.

"I think Regina residents will embrace them with open arms. I have no question about that," he said.

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