Feds may miss February deadline to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees: immigration minister

One day after the Liberal government announced that it won’t keep its election promise to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by the end of 2015, the immigration minister says they may not even meet their new deadline of February 2016.

“We will fight as hard as we can, work as hard as we can to hit those targets. But nothing can be guaranteed,” said John McCallum, said in an interview.

“There are certain things we do not control. We do not control, for example, the timing of the exit permits of these countries,” he said.

“Nothing is written in stone. But what I am saying is that we, along with all of our partners, along with all Canadians, will do our very best to hit those targets and, more importantly, to bring to Canada as quickly as we can all 25,000 refugees who need our help and who will help to build a better Canada.”

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Finding places for those refugees to live is “a challenge” he said, given the lack of affordable housing in many Canadian cities.

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But he’s confident that the government, in partnership with cities, provinces and other groups, will be able to work it out.

READ MORE: How to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees – a step-by-step guide

And while the government’s decision to prioritize women, children and sexual minorities is driven by a desire to “choose the most vulnerable,” McCallum said there are also security concerns around bringing in straight, unattached adult men as refugees.

“Yes, in the sense that most of the people who have conducted terrorist operations come from that category.”

More than 263,000 refugees settled in Canada between 2005 and 2014, and none of these have carried out terror attacks. Though one person, Raed Jaser, was a failed refugee claimant and was convicted of planning to attack a VIA Rail train.

McCallum did not give any reason why Canada thinks straight adult male refugees, in particular, would pose a threat.

In an interview with Global News on Monday, University of Ottawa international law professor Errol Mendes questioned the idea that refugees are a security risk.

“We have to understand that it’s far easier for terrorists to come on tourist visas or business or student visas than as refugees,” he said. And leaving single men behind carries risks too.

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“The greatest number of potential recruits are in the camps in Turkey or Lebanon or Jordan. Some of them have been there for years. And if there is no hope whatsoever for them, think about what the potential breeding ground for radicalization is in those camps.”

READ MORE: Could prioritizing gay Syrian refugees do more harm than good?

Single men are still allowed to come to Canada as privately-sponsored refugees.

“I’m not ruling out all of them, but I’m saying our focus is principally on family units, families with children who we will bring to Canada and others, depending on the discretion of the security officials,” he said.

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