11/20/2015 12:37 EST | Updated 11/20/2016 05:12 EST

Harjit Sajjan: Liberal Refugee Plan 'Hitting ISIS In A Different Way'

"They're not fleeing poverty, they're fleeing war."

HALIFAX — The Liberal government's plan to resettle thousands of Syrian refugees by the new year is one way that Canada is contributing to the fight against the Islamic State, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said Friday.

"This crisis is not just about a humanitarian project,'' Sajjan said at the official opening of the International Security Forum in Halifax.

"This also sends a great message to ISIS that you might create this environment for us, but we will not let you take advantage of this. By doing our part for this, we are actually hitting ISIS in a different way as well.''

harjit sajjan

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan fields question at the opening of the Halifax International Security Forum. (Photo: Andrew Vaughan/CP)

Sajjan was responding to questions about a new poll suggesting just over half of Canadians didn't support the plan to resettle 25,000 refugees by the end of this year.

A Forum Research poll cited by the Toronto Star found 51 per cent of respondents disagreed with the plan and nearly 60 per cent agreed when asked if there is a security risk to resettling refugees in Canada.

The survey of 909 adults was conducted by interactive voice response Tuesday. Results are considered accurate plus or minus three percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Sajjan said the federal government will be mindful of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Beirut when screening applicants and he said the most vulnerable refugees will be selected for resettlement.

"They're not fleeing poverty, they're fleeing war.''

But he said many of the newcomers will also bring skills that will ultimately benefit to Canada.

"They're not fleeing poverty, they're fleeing war,'' he said. "These people are coming with phenomenal skill sets and the people that do resettle in this area are going to be contributing to our economy.''

Federal officials are currently talking with the provincial premiers about the logistics of taking in thousands of refugees. Sajjan acknowledged the hospitality and compassion of Canadians who have offered to open their homes to refugees, calling it "second-to-none.''

A government document obtained by The Canadian Press pegs the cost of the resettlement plan at $1.2 billion over the next six years, suggesting $876.7 million would be needed in 2015-2016 alone.

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