REGINA — Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall says the government will establish a refugee settlement centre to co-ordinate the arrival of Syrian refugees into the province.
The announcement comes just days after Wall said the federal government should suspend its plan to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees by year's end because of safety concerns.
"Notwithstanding our disagreement with the federal government, we want to be there for refugees, we want to move ahead in an effective way, and so I'm announcing today the creation of the refugee settlement centre," Wall said Thursday at the legislature in Regina.
The centre will co-ordinate settlement groups, community-based organizations and school districts. For example, schools may need more support for English as a second language programs.
"We'll be very supportive of as many as possible, as soon as possible, but let's just work to results, not a deadline."
The premier says it's important to ensure that refugees who come to Saskatchewan make a successful transition to life in Canada.
However, Wall also says he remains concerned that a rushed political deadline could compromise the success of the refugee resettlement effort.
"We don't think a deadline-driven process is the right thing to do. I still don't think that, but we're going to do our part. We're going to be ready, not just to do our part, but to do it well in the interest of effective settlement."
The premier says many questions remain unanswered about the federal government's resettlement plan, but the province needs to be ready to welcome the refugees whenever they start to arrive.
He estimates about 850 refugees could settle in Saskatchewan.
Wall said in a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that the attacks in Paris are a grim reminder of the death and destruction even a small number of "malevolent individuals can inflict upon a peaceful country and its citizens."
Gunmen and suicide bombers killed 129 people and injured about 300 in the French capital last Friday night.
The premier said Canada should take in refugees, but security should be "first and foremost" the concern for the provincial and federal governments.
Wall says he has since spoken to federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and was given more information about the refugee screening process. Many questions remained unanswered, he added.
The premier says he asked Goodale again to get rid of the deadline.
"We'll be very supportive of as many as possible, as soon as possible, but let's just work to results, not a deadline," said Wall.
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