SASKATOON – The terror attacks on Friday in Paris are the worst atrocity that country has seen since the Second World War. At least 352 people were wounded in the attacks and 129 people killed.
Investigations continue to mount and European officials believe one of the suicide bombers snuck into Europe as a refugee.
IN DEPTH: Paris Attacks
It’s raising many concerns including right here at home as Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall calls on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to delay bringing 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by the end of the year.
“I’m concerned that the current date-driven plan could severely undermine the refugee screening process,” said Wall in a letter to the PM on Monday.
“The recent attacks in Paris are a grim reminder of the death and destruction even a small number of malevolent individuals can inflict upon a peaceful country and its citizens. Surely, we do not want to be date-driven or numbers-driven in an endeavour that may affect the safety of our citizens and the security of our country.”
South of the border, a growing number of states in the U.S. are refusing to accept Syrian refugees. Governors in at least 16 states have made the declaration including Alabama, Michigan, Texas and Massachusetts.
Amid heightened security concerns, Wall has asked that Trudeau pause his election commitment for the time being “in the interest of the safety and security of all Canadians.”
“I do believe that if there’s a chance that even only one person would use the refugee process to come into this country with a plan to do ill, to do bad things in Canada, to Canadians that’s worth it, that’s worth some circumspection,” said Wall to the media on Monday.
According to the premier, 70,000 newcomers have made Saskatchewan home in the last several years. It will continue to be a safe haven to those in need according to Wall but there needs to be effective screening.
“We’re not saying Saskatchewan doesn’t want to welcome refugees or Canada shouldn’t, we’re saying let’s not be driven by a deadline.”
The news is disappointing to those who have already fled war-torn Syria with the hopes their family wasn’t too far behind.
“There’s no life there, the situation is tragically hard,” said Doha Kharsa who came to Canada in 2014.
“There’s no life there, they’re suffering.”
According to Colleen Bell, a terrorism expert at the University of Saskatchewan, the premier’s comments lacked a clear identification of what exactly is wrong with Canadian screening protocols and his request may be more harmful than good.
“I worry that it easily speaks to a community of people that already had reservations about letting Syrian refugees for arguably bigoted reasons or xenophobic reasons,” said Bell.
Wall addressed the allegations after media pushed the issue regarding the number of racially charged Facebook comments and more than 25,000 likes that followed his post this morning that included his two-page letter to the PM.
“We would encourage everybody obviously to not contribute to xenophobic, to not contribute to any sort of racist comments or elements of this debate and we’re going to do our part to make sure that’s not the case.”
Meantime, Bell said she hopes Trudeau will stay the course and the faster our country can accept Syrian refugees the better.
“We must remember that the absolute vast majority of these people are people just like us, just like you and I who are just looking for a good life.”
She acknowledged while it’s important to respond in some way to these attacks, it’s also critical to have a measure of response that doesn’t vilify an entire group of people.
“I think it’s really dangerous to allow this act to essentially reset our humanitarian and refugee agenda and policy because then we’re suggesting our policy and agenda is guided by the violent acts of murderers rather than by our recognized concern for populations that are suffering and that we have the capacity to help.”
As for the federal government, Canada’s public safety minister continues to maintain that there does not appear to be any reason for a heightened risk assessment in Canada at this time “but we remain vigilant.”
All Syrian refugees will be required to have necessary documentation to enter the country and the process will be orderly, well-planned with the appropriate security checks although Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale does admit no system is perfect.
“Can you guarantee, 100 per cent perfection? Is it absolutely fool proof? Nothing in life is 100 per cent but we’re going to make sure that all of our security protocols and rules are properly followed.”
Watch below: Canada will not compromise on security checks of refugees coming to Canada: Goodale