Premiers back refugee plan, Trudeau says after first ministers’ meeting

WATCH: Highlights of the First Ministers Meeting

Canada’s premiers are united behind the federal government’s plan to accept 25,000 Syrian and other refugees into Canada in the coming weeks, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday night.

“Everyone agrees Canada must do more and must accept 25,000 Syrian refugees,” Trudeau said following a three-hour first ministers’ meeting held in Ottawa.

Trudeau acknowledged that the premiers and territorial leaders who attended the meeting had “responsible and precise” questions about the tight five-week timeline currently being proposed by Ottawa, as well as questions about security screening and financial help for the provinces that will be welcoming so many people so quickly.

“But there was never a question of whether Canada should be doing more,” Trudeau explained.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, who as late as Monday afternoon had called on Ottawa to stop trying to meet such a tight deadline, said nothing when a reporter invited anyone who wished to disagree with the prime minister to speak up.

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Quebec’s Philippe Couillard said Trudeau had presented a “credible plan” with “excessively tight” security controls for refugees and that he was very satisfied. That plan is expected to be unveiled to the public Tuesday.

Climate primer

Earlier in the evening, the premiers were publicly briefed on the basics of climate change by two scientists who specialize in the field. Trudeau had intended climate policy to be the central  topic up for discussion Monday ahead of the upcoming climate change conference in Paris, but the refugee crisis stole some of the spotlight.

Climate scientist Dr. Gregory Flato said the briefing and subsequent press conference with members of the media made it “not like my normal day at work.”

Federal scientists were often forbidden from speaking openly with the press about their work under the previous government, and the presence of the two men at Monday’s event was clearly designed to signal that things are changing.

Flato declined to comment on whether he thought he would have been permitted to speak under the previous Conservative government.

Monday’s first ministers meeting was the first in nearly seven years to include the premiers and the Canadian prime minister.

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