MONTREAL – Quebec Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil said security won’t be compromised as the province awaits word from the federal government about its plan to accept refugees from Syria in the coming weeks.
Weil told a news conference in Montreal Monday that Quebecers have expressed concerns about security in recent days, but said she’s assured by Ottawa’s claim that proper checks will be done.
“First of all, when they’re in the camps, the United Nations commissioner for refugees does a first evaluation and the federal government takes it from there and does a criminality check and they do a check regarding terrorism,” said Weil.
Weil said the province will do everything it can to ensure that refugees brought into Quebec are legitimate families fleeing violence.
“These are families that are vulnerable, I know the concern is ‘could somebody slip in there?'” she said.
“But the people I’ve met, these are children and teenagers and mothers. Some have lost their husbands, they can be widows, some in a vulnerable state.”
Still, there is a lot of opposition.
Last week, a banner hanging over a Quebec overpass read: “Refugees – no thank you” and a Quebec City man is gaining notoriety for starting an online petition urging the Canadian government to suspend its plan to welcome 25,000 Syrian refugees.
By Monday afternoon, the petition had over 60,000 signatures.
The Parti Québécois also came out against the government’s plan and is asking for an emergency debate.
“We need to have answers to legitimate questions that have been asked and therefore we should do this in the most appropriate way and this is why we’re proposing to have a debate,” said Pierre Karl Péladeau, the PQ’s leader.
“I’m going to be frank, I don’t think it’s possible by the end of the year,” said Weil.
She said Quebec could accept around 5,700 refugees, but she’s waiting for Ottawa to finalize its plans.
The province said it has already previously tripled the number of people it would accept this year to 3,650 and Quebec will seek federal funds to offset the costs of the additional arrivals.
** with files from The Canadian Press.