There have been a few bumps in the road in recent weeks as thousands of Syrian refugees have arrived on Canadian soil, says Immigration Minister John McCallum, but overall the process is going as smoothly as can be expected.
The biggest concerns have revolved around housing and security, McCallum acknowledged in an interview with The West Block’s Tom Clark. On the security front, there has been increased vigilance since Germany’s spy agency reported that Islamic State fighters may have infiltrated that country via the refugee resettlement process. McCallum continued to defend Canada’s approach to screening its own new arrivals.
“CSIS and Immigration officers have been conducting detailed interviews with every person in the region,” the minister said.
“They’ve had the endorsement of the heads of the RCMP, CSIS, and the Border Services that this is correct, and we are going after the most vulnerable people, and largely, that excludes males on their own. And so a lot of those fighters that you described might be in that category.”
McCallum added that the process has the approval of Canada’s closest ally, the United States.
“We’ve had a lot of discussions with the U.S.,” he said. “We put them (refugees) on the U.S. databases. I think we’re good on the security front and the health front.”
It was unclear if McCallum was sugh eating that the name of every Syrian arriving in Canada is placed on a U.S. security database, or simply that the names are cross-referenced against existing American databases. A spokesperson for the minister’s office later clarified that he was referring to cross-referencing.
Clark also asked McCallum about the apparent housing shortage being faced in many cities where refugees are arriving. Several cities have asked for a slow-down in local arrivals as they try to identify appropriate permanent housing for those who have already touched down.
“At the same time, there are other parts of the country crying out for refugees,” the minister said. “We have many going to the Maritimes, to New Brunswick, to Nova Scotia, to Quebec … So we have not slowed down the planes at all.
McCallum said it is “normal” for some time to be spent in hotels, explaining that Ottawa will be partnering with the private sector to offer new subsidies to various housing groups in the next week.
“I’m having meetings next week with two groups of business people in the residential area to get further support. So I think these things never go perfectly smoothly at every step. We’re dealing with very vulnerable people, many of whom have special needs, but I think it is rolling out, more or less, as we expected.”
Watch the full interview above.