Majority of Canadians oppose Trudeau’s plan to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees over in just six weeks: poll

BY AILEEN DONNELLY

The majority of Canadians oppose the government’s plan to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees in the next six weeks, and the most common complaint is that there isn’t enough time, a new poll shows.

More than half of Canadians (54 per cent) either moderately or strongly oppose Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s plan to bring 25,000 refugees over by Jan. 1, 2016. Meanwhile, 42 per cent moderately or strongly support the plan, according to an Angus Reid Institute poll conducted three days after terrorist attacks killed 129 people in Paris.

Of those who oppose the Liberal government’s refugee plan, the majority (53 per cent) cite tight timelines as their main concern, saying they fear it’s too short to allow for appropriate security checks. Another ten per cent think 25,000 refugees is just too many, while eight per cent say the plan is too expensive. The Liberal government has not released details of their plan, including how they will get all the refugees to Canada and how much it will cost.

Almost one-third (29 per cent) of those who oppose the Liberal plan say Canada should not take in any refugees from the war-torn region. That means about 16 per cent of all poll respondents (those who support and oppose the plan) want to close the nation’s borders to Syrians.

Opposition is highest in Alberta (62 per cent) and lowest in Atlantic Canada (46 per cent).

The poll suggests that Premier Brad Wall is on the right side of public opinion in Saskatchewan.

On Monday, he sent a letter urging Trudeau to slow the intake of Syrian refugees to ensure Canadians aren’t threatened by “malevolent” terrorists.

“I am concerned that the current date-driven plan could severely undermine the refugee screening process,” he wrote.

In Saskatchewan and Manitoba, 59 per cent of respondents opposed Trudeau’s plan and only 36 per cent supported it.

Trudeau reaffirmed his ambitious election promise on Tuesday after several municipal and provincial leaders suggested he was more concerned with speed than security.

“We continue to be very much committed to keeping Canadians safe while we do the right thing to engage responsibly on this humanitarian crisis,” Trudeau said.

Public opinion has changed only slightly in the wake of the attacks allegedly carried out by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists. At the end of last month, another Angus Reid poll found that 51 per cent of Canadians opposed the refugee plan, while 39 per cent said they support it. That survey showed that the refugee plan was the second-most-opposed part of the Liberal platform.

The online survey of 1,503 Canadians — a representative randomized sample drawn from members of the Angus Reid Forum — was conducted on Nov. 16. A probability sample of this size carries a margin of error of plus-or-minus 2.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

U.S. nervously watches Canada’s massive refugee plan

Fear of the Canadian border as a gateway for terror — a recurring theme in U.S. politics since the attacks of 9/11 — appears to be stirring anew as the sheer heft of the Canadian plan takes shape,

By: Mitch Potter Foreign Affairs Writer,

Toronto Star

It should come as something less than a shock that the United States is watching closely — and in some quarters, nervously — as Canada’s new government moves with bold, audacious speed on Syrian refugees.

Fear of the Canadian border as a gateway for terror — a recurring theme in U.S. politics since the attacks of 9/11, despite all evidence to the contrary — appears to be stirring anew as the sheer heft of the Canadian plan takes shape, with expectations of as many as 1,000 refugees a day arriving in Canada starting Dec. 1.

A telltale clue on the jittery thinking among U.S. officials came even before Friday’s attacks in Paris, when a senior officer with the U.S. embassy in Ottawa was overheard at a public gathering on Remembrance Day bluntly discussing Washington’s anxieties that some among the 25,000 refugees may come intending to travel south and wreak American havoc, ISIS-style.

“The message was very clear and not couched in diplomatic language — I heard, ‘My government is highly concerned’ about the potential threat at the border,” a witness to the U.S. official’s remarks told the Star on condition of anonymity. The official in question, Peter Malecha, a first secretary at the embassy, did not respond to the Star’s request for comment.

It is unclear whether it’s the speed or size of Ottawa’s refugee mobilization — or perhaps both — that rankles most. Either way, the fact that Canada is about to punch far above America’s weight on Syrian refugees is not going unnoticed. The Canadian pledge to absorb 25,000 people by year’s end vastly overshadows anything contemplated in Washington, where officials are looking at opening the door to an additional 10,000 refugees by the end of 2016. In per capita terms, Canada’s target is 25 times more generous than what Washington envisions. And it will happen 12 times faster.

Close watchers of the Canada-U.S. file in Washington say they are unsurprised by the added U.S. scrutiny, given how border security dominates American political conversation. Unlike in Canada, the Syrian refugee debate south of the border has been subsumed into the already overheated political battle over immigration, with Republican frontrunner Donald Trump warning any large influx of refugees represents a “Trojan Horse” security threat.

“These kinds of American anxieties speak to the borders-first mindset that prevails. And at the same time, Ottawa is being watched down here because it is not just a new government but a young government,” said Washington consultant Paul Frazer, a former Canadian diplomat specializing in cross-border issues.

“At the same time we need to keep in mind that we are a long way from 9/11 and the enhancements in border security have grown year after year, with an array of protections, coming and going. Is it presumptuous to sound the alarm about 25,000 people when Germany is dealing with 700,000 refugees as we speak? It probably is.

“But it also speaks to the stakes of this plan,” said Frazer. “If you’re the Canadian minister in charge of the file, you’re going to make sure everything is done with incredible thoroughness. But when all is said and done you will still go to bed at night crossing your fingers.”