Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has dialed back one of his key campaign pledges three weeks after taking power, pushing back his deadline for welcoming Syrian refugees while relying on private sponsorship to process claims more quickly.
Trudeau's government detailed its plan Tuesday for the first time since the Oct. 19 election, during which it pledged to bring in 25,000 refugees by the end of the year. Canada now expects to bring in at least 10,000 between Nov. 4 and Dec. 31, with a "target" of another 15,000 due by the end of February 2016, and more afterward.
Of the 25,000 due by the end of February, 15,000 will be government-assisted refugees with officials prioritizing families, "women at risk," those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex, and men accompanying their parents. Notably absent are single, heterosexual men. The remaining 10,000 will be privately sponsored refugees, for whom there will be no preferred groups.
After February, Canada will continue to bring in government-assisted refugees in 2016, eventually aiming to welcome another 10,000, for a total of 25,000 non-private cases. Trudeau's campaign platform had called for the "immediate government sponsorship" of 25,000 refugees and "even more" through private sponsorship.
The plan is forecast to cost $678 million in Canadian dollars ($510 million) over six years - largely new funding commitments by the Liberal government, which took power Nov. 4. The Liberal platform had pledged C$250 million in processing and resettlement costs.
To ensure that the process is conducted properly, "it is better to take that additional time and so that is what we are doing," Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister John McCallum said Tuesday in Ottawa.
Trudeau's government is pledging a range of security measures, including health screening, iris scans, fingerprinting, and photographs, in response to critics who feared the accelerated pace would open Canada to a security risk. Red flags will cause a case to be deferred, the government said.