Kelowna-Lake Country MP Stephen Fuhr is defending the new federal Liberal government’s change to its promise to take in 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year.
PrimeMinister Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday that Canada will not be able to meet the target by Dec. 31 because the infrastructure needed to receive that many refugees is not in place across the country.
But he said 10,000 refugees will be accepted before the end of the year, with the remaining 15,000 here by the end of February.
“Trudeau’s been calling for 25,000 refugees since March,” Fuhr told the CapitalNews Wednesday.
“If the (former Conservative) government had started working on it then, we could have done it (met the Dec. 31 deadline.)”
He said while the proper security screening can be done in time, the intake plan is limited by the inability of municipalities across the country to absorb that many refugees. B.C. has been asked to take in 3,500 refugees from civil war and terrorist attacks in Syria and Iraq and is ready to do so, Premier Christy Clark said Wednesday.
“The federal government has asked us to welcome 3,500 refugees as part of this, and we’ve said yes, we think we can do that,” Clark said. “We’ve set a million dollars aside and the federal government has also said they’re going to restore the resettlement funding that was cut not that long ago.
“We are going to fund their children when they go to school, of course, and support them in finding the counselling services, the housing and general settlement services that they need.”
Fuhr said the refugee issue has been the issue he has heard the most about from constituents since settling into office following his surprise election night defeat of long-time Conservative MP Ron Cannan last month.
He said as the prime minister has stated, this is a national effort, not just a government effort, and following an analysis of the situation the government felt it was best to delay taking 15,000 of the 25,000 refugees before the end of February 2016.
In his mandate letter to Immigration Minister John McCallum, Trudeau said a top priority is to “lead government-wide efforts to resettle 25,000 refugees from Syria in the coming months.”
Clark said the number, timing and security screening of refugee claimants is up to Ottawa.
“I accept their assurances that they can do a very rigorous screening process for everyone that we’re welcoming into the country in the time that they’ve set out for it,” Clark said.
“Our job in British Columbia is to welcome them, and to make sure that we as communities and a province do everything that we can to make sure that they get the best possible start, so those refugees can start contributing to our society and be a part of our society, because that’s what they want. And that’s what we need.”